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The Dark Tower Movie Review

The Dark Tower (2017) movie poster The Dark Tower

Theatrical Release: August 4, 2017 / Running Time: 95 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Nikolaj Arcel / Writers: Stephen King (novels); Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, Anders Thomas Jensen, Nikolaj Arcel (screenplay)

Cast: Idris Elba (Roland Deschain), Matthew McConaughey (Walter O'Dim), Tom Taylor (Jake Chambers), Claudia Kim (Arra Champignon), Fran Kranz (Pimli), Abbey Lee (Tirana), Jackie Earle Haley (Sayre), Katheryn Winnick (Laurie Chambers), Dennis Haysbert (Steven Deschain), Michael Barbieri (Timmy)

 

The Dark Tower is based on a popular series of Stephen King novels, a fact you will find hard to believe if you enter the movie without having read any of them.
King's line of fantasy novels has produced eight books over thirty years, so a film adaptation was perhaps inevitable. If you're among those who have looked forward to this film, which was in development since 2007, it might be best to dial down your anticipation because it is sure to lead to disappointment.

Of the more than 4,000 pages that King has written in this world, the movie decides to open with two sentences. "A tower stands at the center of the universe protecting against darkness. The mind of a child can bring it down." That's not the filmmakers being terse with onscreen text. That is about the extent of story that we get here. The mind of one such child, Jake Chambers (newcomer Tom Taylor), has been plaguing him with vivid nightmares in which he sees this tower and the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) who is determined to test out children's minds in the hopes of making that tower crumble.

The Gunslinger (Idris Elba) fires rounds in two different directions in "The Dark Tower."

Jake's walls are filled with his detailed drawings of what he's seen in his dream, including the gunslinger at odds with that dark-haired, dark-suited man. The boy's mother and stepfather have him visit a host of therapists and are about to have him spend a weekend being observed at a facility. Recognizing it as a potential trap by the otherworldly forces of the Man in Black, Jake instead sneaks off, finds a portal, and happily connects with Roland (Idris Elba), the gunslinger of his dreams. Roland fought in the Civil War and has seen some things. He is determined to keep the eponymous tower standing and to protect Jake from being used against that goal.

Roland accompanies Jake to present-day New York, which gives the film its only brushes of humor with some mild fish out of water comedy. Meanwhile, the Man in Black pursues Jake.

Movies that spend a long time in development sometimes surprise, revealing that the unusually prolonged efforts to get things right paid off. Most of the time, they end up a mess, the product of compromise and postproduction scrambles to overcome the hurdles that delayed the project to begin with. The Dark Tower is a mess and one that you're surprised that McConaughey and Elba staked their respective reputations on.

Matthew McConaughey plays the dark-souled Man in Black, the villain of "The Dark Tower."

Should we blame Danish director Nikolaj Arcel (A Royal Affair), making his English language debut? Sure, at least a little bit. He fails to make the material even remotely compelling or exciting. Plus he is one of four credited (and who knows how many uncredited?) screenwriters responsible for making the material so inaccessible, unremarkable, and downright campy.
McConaughey, one of the most enjoyable actors in Hollywood the past few years, gives the Man in Black the subtlety of a Power Rangers villain. Elba, who has been respected perhaps beyond what his filmography warrants, is slightly less ludicrous, but not an especially good fit for the role.

Both in its depictions of reality and fantasy, Dark Tower fails to do anything right. I mean a young protagonist with a rocky home life should be easy to sympathize with. He's practically Peter Parker. But he's not someone we care about, nor are any of the other characters. The action barely even qualifies as action and yet there is nothing else to think about or invest in. The conflict is barely even well-defined enough to call generic. The one nice thing I can say is that it is mercifully short, running just 90 minutes plus credits.

Clearly whatever of interest that has kept readers returning to King's books does not translate into the film, which is as banal and unfulfilling as any major studio film released this summer. Yes, if you thought King Arthur and The Mummy were bad, then this is absolutely terrible. And while traditionally being bad hasn't killed a film's chances to find an audience. This summer, movies with less than really favorable reviews have struggled at the box office. It's reasonable to expect this flops and the sort of half-assed sequel set up at the end amounts to nothing more than a laugh.

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From Stephen King: The Shining Pet Sematary Cell Misery Cujo
Idris Elba: Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom No Good Deed Pacific Rim 28 Weeks Later
Matthew McConaughey: Gold Dallas Buyers Club Interstellar Ghosts of Girlfriends Past
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Reviewed August 4, 2017.



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