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The Dark Tower – Movie Review

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The Dark Tower – Movie Review

Rating: D (Very Bad)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Sony Pictures

The closest comparison one can make with The Dark Tower is unfortunately to The Last Airbender. Stephen King’s series of popular fantasy books are apparently sprawling and epic, but it’s difficult to get that sense with this film adaptation. Watching the film unfold is like witnessing a 90 minute sizzle reel as the plot makes little sense and takes odd detours that don’t match up whatsoever. It’s possible there’s a longer cut that allows for more character moments. However, the final version that will play on cinema screens worldwide rushes through one sequence after another in the hopes of getting us to the end credits as quickly as possible.

The first half tries desperately to spring information on the audience and yet somehow little makes sense. Little is learned about young Jake Chambers and what makes him so special, outside of a brief connection to another Stephen King work (albeit one where the film rights are owned by another studio). The villain, known as The Man in Black, mostly walks around with Matthew McConaughey not coming across as the least bit threatening. The most disappointing performance comes from Idris Elba. Elba is a talented actor with plenty of charm, yet even he proves to be a bore here as the heroic Gunslinger. He shares little rapport with Jake and outside of plot convenience, there’s no reason for these two to team up.

The editing is some of the worst this year and one can tell when certain scenes have been spliced out of the print. The whole project reeks of executive meddling as it’s difficult to imagine a director like Nikolaj Arcel making these storytelling and editing decisions. The few moments of emotion The Dark Tower attempts to register don’t work, because the audience hasn’t fully gotten to know these characters. The evil plan is not entirely clear with frequent mentions of the titular tower needing to fall and kidnapping children is involved somehow. Fans of the book might be able to decipher what’s at stake, but newcomers will almost certainly be lost.

The film jumps around and does have the feel of different entries in a franchise cobbled together. The script mixes in elements of fantasy and western in a way that’s utterly scattershot. Jake and the Gunslinger jump from one location to the next, each serving a different purpose that don’t properly connect. One second, they’re in an old-timey town meeting characters that won’t play much importance after this episode. The next minute, they’re in present day New York and delivering fish-out-of-water jokes that wouldn’t even be good enough for the third act of Last Action Hero. The longer The Dark Tower plays, the more boredom starts to set in.

The Dark Tower is like watching a pilot for a series that will be cancelled four episodes later. There is somehow a ton of set-up and also very little. The film literally begins with Jake having dreams that are clearly shortened versions of longer sequences. One can almost hear the snipping occurring behind the scenes. The Dark Tower books are supposedly beloved for their grand scope and epic adventure, so maybe a television series ala Game of Thrones would have been the better fit. It might have proved a more promising start and the filmmakers would have had more time to develop ideas and plot lines. As it stands, this looks to join more non-starting franchises. With how long fans of the books have been awaiting a film adaptation, this is not happy news to report.


Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison