A thinly developed narrative and plodding action sequences transform this adaptation of Stephen King’s wonderful series, The Dark Tower into a middling 85-minute bore.
The film’s narrative centers around the ongoing war between The Man in Black (who some assume is playing some sort of variation of the devil) and The Gunslingers. The Man in Black’s (Matthew McConaughey) sole purpose is to unleash hell on all worlds and the only standing in his way is The Dark Tower which wards off evil from other worlds. He builds a weapon that harnesses the power of a child’s mind to help destroy it. The only people standing in his way is the last of the Gunslingers (Idris Elba) and an Earth bound boy (Tom Taylor) with psychic powers.
Elba was able to make the most of this haphazardly structured narrative. He stepped into the role of Roland Deschain and brought an element of gravitas to the role. His character wasn’t this person who was pure of heart. Revenge is what drove him for almost 80% of the film. Elba isn’t typically cast as the lead and hopefully, this is a sign of things to come. (Are you listening Bond Producers?)
Director Nikolaj Arcel certainly was ambitious to tackle such ambitious source material. The Dark Tower is one of Stephen King’s most well-written pieces and is certainly revered by legions of King’s fans.
What Didn’t Work
This type of source material would have been difficult for the most gifted of adaptors but to pick two writers with little success and experience adapting stories for the big screen was a foolish move. Jeff Pinkner’s biggest claim to fame is that he wrote a few episodes of the final season of Fringe. Akiva Goldsman at least has some experience adapting books for the big screen. However, his biggest hit, The Davinci Code has the same issues The Dark Tower has. Goldsman is more concerned about reaching some sort of a resolution in the narrative rather than allowing things to develop. During the film, we have snapshots of a war that has unfolded between The Man In Black and The Gunslingers. We don’t know if there were others fighting The Gunslingers. We don’t know if it was just this large group of protectors of the tower vs. McConaughey’s character. It seems clear that there’s much more to this story that the screen writers simply avoided. Why? Sometimes the best narratives take place over the course of a few films (which was the original intention) and now as this film crumbles to pieces, the chances of a sequel are slim.
McConaughey’s performance as The Man In Black doesn’t evoke any sort of fear. His portrayal is more a caricature than any sort of performance. Was he a victim of a poor narrative? Perhaps, but remember Idris Elba was able to take the same narrative and develop a character that was at least commendable.
The action sequences needed to be more uptempo and contain less use of slow motion. It’s neat the first twenty seconds to see Elba shooting at McConaughey and seeing him dodge the bullets like he was in the Matrix, but after that, there was nothing exciting. The most intricate sequences were also the most predictable and that shouldn’t have been the case.
For those who have read King’s series, this adaptation of The Dark Tower is nothing short of an insult. If you happen to be like me and have never read the series, then this film comes off as nothing more than a barely average science fiction film. One thing this film has done is motivate me to begin reading this series. So if you are a die hard fan of King’s work, perhaps waiting till It is released in September is your best course of action.