Film Review: The Dark Tower

Words: Miriam Blakemore-Hoy
Sunday 27 August 2017
reading time: min, words

We weren't terribly impressed with the big-screen adaptation of Stephen King's magnum opus...


I'm going to be blunt with you - even with two acting heavyweights signed up for the leading roles and an immense well of material provided by horror master Stephen King to draw from, The Dark Tower just left me with the feeling… meh…

At first, it’s hard to put a finger on what’s wrong. The trailer was fantastic; the anticipation and hype were healthily built up. There’s a rich, beautifully sprawling, eight-volume mythos ripe for an epic TV mini-series that instead ends up making do with a woefully inadequate 95-minute runtime. It’s not that this is a bad film as such… more of an incomplete one. Generally, it’s decently acted, with stunning design and convincing effects. But we never seem to be given enough information or time to really get to grips with what’s actually going on. This is where the die-hard book fans speed away with a straight advantage while the uninitiated are left wallowing in the shallows. The Tower is featured so briefly - looming in the middle of nowhere and with scant explanation of its purpose or existence. Then there are the tantalising bits of information dropped carelessly around the plotline about ancient abandoned theme parks, energy sapping portal generator technology, and King Arthur’s old sword Excalibur reincarnated as a gunslinger’s pistols. Sound interesting? Sure, but don’t expect anything further on these MacGuffins.

Idris Elba gives a presentable performance, this time round playing Roland Deschain - the lonesome, tough ol’ gunslinger, caught in a supposedly endless struggle to protect the universe from darkness, demons and the evil beings hell-bent on the destruction of all worlds. As protector of the Tower, Roland must guard it against all enemies seeking to bring it down - when he’s not pursuing his own hunt for vengeance. In all fairness, if it wasn’t for Elba, the film just wouldn’t maintain much of its integrity, although I have a feeling that the personification of Roland should be way less likeable, more prime Clint Eastwood. Elba is just too lovely – is that something that anyone can be criticised for?

Young Tom Taylor takes on the character of Jake Chambers, an average run-of-the-mill, telepathic kid plagued with horrific visions. Yet he seems remarkably balanced and self-possessed on discovering said supernatural skills and meeting his nightmares face to face, even maintaining nearly the same facial expression for most of the film.


...each plotline appears like another tick off a long to-do list

Now to the big baddie of the piece - the man termed simply as “The Man in Black”. Matthew McConaughey’s character, supposedly the most evil being in the universe, is more a Las Vegas magician hamming up his best moves to the detriment of those who get in his way. Coming off the back of his roles in True Detective and Interstellar it’s a big disappointment to see, and it starts me musing on what the film would have been like if Elba and McConaughey had swapped roles, with John Luther and Rust Cohle-like renditions that could have brought a lot more interesting material to the table.

The truth is, there's not enough time or effort spent laying down the foundations needed for this bold new saga. Rather than helping the viewer to really get to know the characters' motives, personalities and desires, each plotline appears like another tick off a long to-do list. Could this be anything to do with the four credited screenwriters, all pitching in with their own ideas, or the studio executives breathing down the director’s neck? I'm going to be kind, I'd give it four and a half stars out of ten. Maybe one to wait for on DVD... or for the remake...?

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