Full disclosure here right off of the bat. I am a HUGE fan of the Dark Tower series of books written by Stephen King. All it took was a seemingly normal high school homework assignment where I was tasked to write a book report on the novel of my choice. I made my way into the local book store and happened upon a title that I had never heard of. Two things drew me to this particular book. First, I was a fan of Stephen King’s horror film adaptations so when glanced at a story that I had never heard of, I was curious. It was at that point that a second compelling argument was made, the thickness of this book. Well I suppose I should say the lack there of. Weighing in at only 224 pages, it was like this book written with me in mind. Without hesitation I made off with my new prize possession. This “short” novel that I thought would be a breeze to get through so that I could just slap some words on paper and get my “passable” letter grade, well it quickly turned into a project that would consume the next 15 years of my life.
That first book, The Gunslinger, grabbed my attention and never let go. I was eager for these words to be converted to a script and transformed into a magical movie experience. Boy was in for a lesson in patience. The year is now 2017, 35 years after the first book was published, and finally a movie is out in the wild. And now comes feedback from a longtime fan of the series, so please understand that my views on this particular subject may be far different from others out there.
The Dark Tower is at the center of different worlds and different times for that matter. As the tower goes, so does our existence. While you’d assume that everyone would hold this place in the highest regards, there is a faction that would see it fall so that an unspeakable evil can descent upon us. The Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey), or simply Walter as some call him, wants evil to reign down on everyone. This tower is the thing that he must take down but standing in his way is his nemesis, Roland Deschain (Idris Elba) who will stop at nothing to end the Man in Black. While Roland no longer sees himself as a gunslinger, a young boy by the name of Jake (Tom Taylor) from another place (think of it as our modern day Earth) is the key to the gunslinger finding himself once again, and hopefully becoming the savior that we all need. It’s a simple battle of good versus evil.
The casting in The Dark Tower is solid, as far as the actors chosen to play these important parts. Idris Elba exudes strength and confidence. Matthew McConaughey embraces his evil side with two hands and doesn’t let go. Tom Taylor proves that he has the acting chops to stand toe-to-toe with his bigger-named counterparts. I would say that his only potential demise is his age. The thing with using young actors in a long running series is that they grow and mature much faster than sequels are made. Just look at the actors in the Harry Potter for examples of what I mean. Sony will need to commit and go full steam ahead, regardless of any potential press negativity, if they want to preserve a proper timeline of someone like Tom Taylor.
And getting to the actual critiquing of this particular piece. Having these two heavyweight actors to hang your hopes on is great start. Butts will be in seats simply because they are fans of Elba, McConaughey or both. Then you’ve got the faction of fans (not unlike myself) who are fans of the book series. Those people will come out in droves. The runtime is kept relatively short at 95 minutes, which means that the pace is fairly brisk. There’s a decent amount of action and the story is pretty solid for the most part. All of these things should amount to an overall positive experience in theaters, and therefore box offices.
Now, with all of the good also comes some negativity here. Those unfamiliar with the novels could possibly become disinterested, as the story is kind of a mash-up of genres. The Dark Tower also feels a bit rushed in its attempt to not bore audiences. The Gunslinger was dull in certain parts but it was all worth as the books continued. That luxury is not had with this single movie. While trying to make it feel like an interesting one-off, some of the detail is left out, leaving character development to feel quite shallow in certain instances. Finally here, there are aspects of the film adaptation that are quite different than the novel which make for an underwhelming experience. Wonder just how this movie would tackle certain plot points only to discover that they either skipped or changed them altogether, is a real letdown.
So, all in all The Dark Tower is a decent middle of the road fantasy film. It lacks some of the bite that events written in the novel would have given it. As stated earlier, the acting can been seen as a strength, as can the action scenes. Director Nikolaj Arcel makes Idris Elba’s Roland “cool” to watch. Still there are elements missing that could have made this movie so much more. I’m grading on a curve and giving an extra 1/2 star simply because a movie has finally been made after all of these years. Also, there are tons of Easter Eggs hidden in plain sight for all of the Stephen King fans out there. You can check it in theaters today.