Movie Review: The Dark Tower

The Dark Tower is based on the Steven King books of the same name but according to Director Nikolaj Arcel, is a “canon continuation” of the series and not a true adaptation of any particular book. Regardless of its faithfulness to the source material or how it chooses to adapt it, The Dark Tower is a vastly flawed film that fails to be anything that just mildly entertaining, and that’s giving it a bit more credit than it actually deserves.

Before I talk anything further about the film, I’ll state this plain; I have not read the books and will keep this as an opinion about the movie and the movie alone. Any differences between its characters or events that are taken or depicted from the books is not the focus of this review.

The movie centers on a young boy, Jake Chambers, and his dreams about a Man in Black using children in his attempt to destroy the Dark Tower, a mystical structure that keeps the universe together. As the tower is under attack, Earth, or as the movie calls it ‘Key Stone Earth’ is feeling the effects of the assault via ‘Earthquakes’ which are occurring around the world. Jake has been sketching each figure and location from his dreams and this causes his friends and family to have concerns about his mental health, basically acting as if he is crazy, just without saying it. This is the typical no one believes the kid but they were right all along type deal that we have seen a hundred times before.

Jake’s dreams always seem to include two central figures; a Gunslinger and a Man in Black. Eventually, Jake has a vision about a house in the city and it is here where Jake finds a portal to enter the world where he will meet the Gunslinger; the only man that might possibly be able to defeat the Man in Black and save the Dark Tower.

The movie has a very brisk pace early on despite having a few scenes that seem to drag. There are several times where the movie felt as if it was cut from a series of movies and shortened to fit into one. When we first meet the Gunslinger, it feels as if it is in the middle of a much longer scene and the transition into it feels awkward and poorly edited, and this approach seems to be consistent throughout much of the film.

Jake is played by relatively unknown actor, Tom Taylor, who is alright in the role but just doesn’t stand out to really be perfectly cast in this. He’s competent in what he is required to do here but lacks the wow factor of what some child actors have done recently in Hollywood. There is a pretty emotional moment for the character later in the film that is glossed over fairly quickly and it isn’t brought up again and it felt rather odd that it wasn’t addressed further.

Idris Elba is the Gunslinger and he plays your typical Idris Elba character and that can be a good or bad thing depending on if you like the actor or not. I personally am a fan of the actor and found it to be more of what he usually gives in his roles. He’s ok, but the same can be said for Matthew McConaughey as the Man in Black, Walter O’Dim. McConaughey is here basically being McConaughey and doesn’t really bring much acting to the role. It’s interesting seeing McConaughey as a villain and part of that appeal is what makes me actually like the character, but he just doesn’t bring anything really unique to the character and comes off very one-dimensional. 

The Man in Black has mind control magic that allows him to make others commit actions against their will. This is similar to Jesse Custer from Preacher as well as Killgrave from Jessica Jones. While the effects of what he does can sound cool, one of the moments he says to stop breathing to someone, and this is the second time in the film he does this, the guy just drops dead instead of suffocating, and just ruins that moment, not that you’ll care about that character in any regard, but it still is a poorly acted scene nonetheless.

There are a few moments in the film that are enjoyable, but it’s things we’ve seen in so many other films. There just isn’t that much here that hasn’t been seen before. The fish out of water stuff is typical of how these films go down, and despite the humor in learning what a hot dog is, or the hospital shocked at how many diseases the Gunslinger has, and then him paying them with a fantasy coin, these types of scenes have been done far better in dozens and dozens of films. The shootout in the finale is easily the best part of the movie and the resolution with the Man in Black ends with a very clever moment, one of originality that I wish the film had more of.

Overall, The Dark Tower can be a bit incoherent, and while watchable, just isn’t anything more than your average popcorn flick. Regardless of how it has adapted or carried on the source material, they still should look to make an entertaining movie nonetheless, and it just barely does that. Not a single actor really commits to bringing anything more than what they are already known for and it makes me wonder if they were under contract to do the movie against their will, which does happen far more frequently than you would think. It’s not great, it’s not bad, it’s alright alright.

The Dark Tower was seen in Ultra AVX

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