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Review: "The Dark Tower"

by Chris Feil

The Stephen King resurgence continues with his epic genre mashup series The Dark Tower finally coming to the screen from director Nikolaj Arcel, and with the powerful Idris Elba in tow as the enigmatic gunslinger Roland Deschain. But this one isn’t likely to come ahead of the King-idolatry of Stranger Things or the upcoming adaptation of It, as it barely resembles his creation or any of the elements that make him one of our foremost pulse-quickeners.

The Dark Tower centers on Jake Chambers, a troubled teenager with visions of otherworldly cataclysm centered around the evil Man in Black, played with nonchalance by Matthew McConaughey. Jake flees across dimensions into Roland’s world and the two pair up to stop the Man In Black from destroying the titular Dark Tower and with it all of existence. When the film immediately forces its hero Roland Deschain to the background for its first two acts (and without building a mythos to capitalize on once he emerges), it’s the first sign that something is majorly amiss in this adaptation...

Even the effortless watchability of Idris Elba can’t make the movie all that interesting, but the film strangely favors the young Jake’s point of view over Roland’s more world-weary and knowledgable one. As Jake, the young Tom Taylor is ill-matched to Elba, exacerbated by the character’s lack of intrigue compared to Roland. McConaughey’s performance is another of the film’s many non-starts, a menace-free villain of uncertain powers on a heavy dose of Tylenol PM. His sequences (which the film also emphasizes over the hero) are among the dreariest and most incongruous.

Filmgoers who complain about long running times should take note of this film’s 90 minutes that feel nevertheless incomplete. The Dark Tower initiates its would-be franchise by buffing out the series’s oddities until it becomes an indistinct but labored genre poser. Worse yet, truncating the plot into a bite-sized effort has actually made it more confusing. Brevity is one of the strengths of The Gunslinger, the first installment of the books that is almost wholly ignored here. But this feels like we are missing out on crucial information and a whole lot of fun and world-building. It’s not just that the complexities of King’s series are sacrificed, it loses even a discernible plot for the sake of oversimplification.

For a series that is so visually evocative on the page, particularly The Gunslinger, one of the film’s chief disappointments is its incredible lack of visual interest. Arcel’s rendering of King’s world is sluggish, but worse for its lack of coherency between character design and various set pieces - the struggle to follow its narrative is further burdened when we can’t track what we’re looking at.

Try as you might to not read into the film’s troubles behind the camera, but The Dark Tower quite simply looks, sounds, and moves like a film cooked into blandness by too many hands in the pot. From Stephen King’s sprawling epic series of genre-bending, this film represents about the least ambitious possible version. It’s not just one of the worst films of the year, it’s one of the worst King adaptations ever.


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Reader Comments (13)

Feel bad for Elba but not surprised. I tried the book but found it awful.

August 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterHuh

The moment I saw the trailer I could tell it was going to be bad, but I assumed the sort of bad that most other people liked for some reason. It was dark and grey, had Idris Elba, and had characters saying faux wise observations about "shooting with my heart" or whatever.

August 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

If anything has Akiva Goldsman's name attached to a project as a writer or director.... STAY THE FUCK AWAY!!!!

August 5, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

I want to see Idris's dark tower

August 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBoy Piranha

Feeling bad for Elba, such a charismatic actor (Luther, The Wire, The Big C ), his film career though seems kinda numb ....he deserves much better , hope The Mountain Between Us will do the trick ( having a lot of mixed feelings towards it though, besides the -almost- always reliable Winslet in it), and YES, he should be the next Bond !!!

August 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEder Arcas

What thevoid99 said.

August 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterIan

Elba does nothing for me as an actor or celebrity and those OX SET ads here he does in the UK and very annoying as if we all watch Box Sets like sheep.

August 6, 2017 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

The studios usually use August as a dumping ground

August 6, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterjaragon

Google Pixel 2 will boast a dinky 4.97-inch display with a Full HD 1080p resolution.

August 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDennis

I am beeting Fox wished they had put Alien Covenant out on this weekend as originally planned.

August 6, 2017 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

Elba's hot and regal but I haven't yet watched him in a captivating performance. Suggestions?

August 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterYavor

@Yavor - watch season 1 of Luther. That show is pretty accessible (and good) and he is in top form in it

August 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterHuh

I have read the series many times... this movie is a travesty. Roland Deschain is a "honky mafa" according to Detta Walker (Suzanna's other ego) and Idris is very obviously black. WTF Stephen King? in every one of his books he claims he "never allows abridgment" then how do you condense 4k+ pages of 7 huge books into one 90 minute abortion? Very disappointed. this series like the bible should not be up for interpretation.

September 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBpb B

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