The Dark Tower (2017)

  • Time: 95 min
  • Genre: Action | Adventure | Fantasy
  • Director: Nikolaj Arcel
  • Cast: Idris Elba, Katheryn Winnick, Matthew McConaughey


There are other worlds than these. Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, the ambitious and expansive story from one of the world’s most celebrated authors, makes its launch to the big screen. The last Gunslinger, Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), has been locked in an eternal battle with Walter O’Dim, also known as the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey), determined to prevent him from toppling the Dark Tower, which holds the universe together. With the fate of the worlds at stake, good and evil will collide in the ultimate battle as only Roland can defend the Tower from the Man in Black.


  • (RATING: ☆½ out of 5)

    GRADE: D+


    IN BRIEF: A terrible movie with a terrible screenplay, terrible direction, and terrible villain…did I mention it was terrible?

    SYNOPSIS: The forces of Good battle the forces of Evil in this mishmash of genres.

    RUNNING TIME: 1 hrs., 43 mins.

    Jim’s Review: The Dark Tower, a film based on Stephen King’s series of eight novels… none of which I read…can now be seen on movie screens in America. And after seeing this film adaptation, I can firmly say that I made the right choice. I really disliked this movie. It is essentially a supernatural horror cowboy fantasy that is more exposition than story. Mixing these two genres never works. Remember, the god-awful movie, Cowboys and Aliens?

    The story, at least in this movie version (sadly, the beginning chapter of this soon-to-be film franchise), is so damn silly and unappealing. It couldn’t round-up any scare or excitement, let alone one’s interest in its overly convoluted, yet predictable plot. After fifteen minutes, I wanted to escape this hell. The film drones on and on…and it’s barely 90 minutes long.

    The plot goes something like this: Jake (Tom Taylor) has a gift: he sees dead people and more. Protecting Jake from the evil force known as Walter, a.k.a. The Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) is Roland (Idris Elba), the Gunslinger. They travel from Keystone Earth to another eerie world called Mid-World, the home of the Dark Tower, a ebony monolith that protects the world from chaos and death. (However, even before we begin, two questions are already problematic right from the start: 1. Why must a villain always wear black? and 2. With a name like Walter, who wouldn’t be justifiably angry?)

    Did I say the movie was slow? The movie was mostly filler. The thrills were totally missing. The film seemed endless to me. Scenes were choppy and never build to any degree of excitement. Characters were stick figures caught up in a dumb story. CGI effects were barely adequate. Director Nikolaj Arcel wrote the screenplay along with Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, and Anders Thomas Jensen, and all of them take equal blame here. There was no suspense…none! What a disappointment!

    Mr. Arcel was given full director credit (or discredit, as I see it). Ron Howard was listed as the producer and, rumor has it, he needed to step in to save the movie… he didn’t. And as I said before, the pace and rhythm of the film was off kilter. But I think most of the problem lies in the script and plot structure. The dialog was downright laughable too. The film’s “live by the gun / die by the gun” message is so lame. And that maxim, “He who kills with his gun has forgotten the face of his father. I kill with my heart.” That mantra is uttered numerous times ad nauseam. That silly phrase is in need of a rewrite: “He who watches this movie has forgotten the time he has wasted.”

    And let’s talk about the cast, shall we? As Jake, Mr, Taylor does a fine job, no qualms there. And Mr. Elba was perfectly cast, but Mr. McConaughey certainly wasn’t. Mr. Elba gives a heartfelt performance, a hero one can root for, while Mr. McConaughey delivers one of the least menacing villains in cinema history. The real evil that he embodies is that of a slick metrosexual persona, a older man vainly clinging to his youth, wearing form-fitting tapered shirts and lathered with body treatment lotions, moisturizers, and bronze tanning solutions. The actor resembled most 80’s Las Vegas magicians, truly a mix of Siegfried or Roy or David Copperfield. His powers of thought control over his victims looked like a bad hypnotist act. The only dead things he seemed more interested in controlling were the dead cells he must have removed with his many exfoliant treatments. This Academy Award winning actor’s performance was, at times, unintentionally hilarious, and certainly not the proper nemesis. He created more laughs than tension, more comedy than drama.

    There’s nothing more to add, except to say that The Dark Tower is dim-witted and deadly dull. One of the year’s worst. GRADE: D+

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  • Even if one wasn’t aware that it was based on Stephen King’s eight-novel multiverse and that the production was plagued with last-minute re-edits and clashing visions, there’s something about The Dark Tower that feels both overstuffed and underdeveloped. It’s also a film adaptation that feels less like a King work than a half-baked mishmash of The Lord of the Rings and The Matrix. It’s not that The Dark Tower is bad per se, it’s just that it could have been so much better.

    The tale centers around eleven-year-old Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), whose dreams involve the Gunslinger (Idris Elba), the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey), and their battle over the titular tower, which somehow holds multiple universes that are on the verge of collapse. The Man in Black seeks to destroy the tower in order to bring ruin to the world, and he kidnaps psychic children and uses their powers or their “shine” in order to attack the tower. Jake, as it is soon revealed, has a most powerful shine, though his mother (Katheryn Winnick) and stepfather (Nicholas Pauling) believe that his visions and the detailed sketches of those visions may stem from Jake not being fully recovered from his father’s death.

    When his mom reluctantly decides to send him to a clinic, Jake notices that the people who have come to collect him are the monsters wearing human faces from his dreams, he makes a break for it and heads to a fairly creepy house in Brooklyn that he saw in one of his visions. There he discovers a portal that leads him to Mid-World where he encounters the Gunslinger and where his unauthorised entry is noted by the Man in Black, who sends his crew to get Jake so that he can use Jake’s abundant shine to finally fell the tower.

    The Dark Tower clocks in at under 100 minutes and its running time proves a detriment. Characters and motivations are barely sketched. Who exactly is the Gunslinger and why is he duty-bound to protect the tower? Who exactly is the Man in Black? Why does the Man in Black want to to destroy the towers and unleash monsters from a parallel universe? How would that benefit him? How exactly did Jake’s father die? Did his death have anything to do with Jake essentially being the Chosen One? If you’re looking for answers, then best to go read King’s novels for you won’t find them in this film.

    The film becomes marginally better in the second half if only because Elba’s swagger on the streets of New York City is something to behold. There’s also the Gunslinger’s discovery of such things as painkillers and sugar – it’s cutesy but Elba sells it. McConaughey’s performance as the Man in Black also comes into more focus; the nonchalant manner with which he issues his commands and the immediacy with which his victims respond is chilling. Yet their inevitable showdown never really feels like the epic battle between good and evil that it ought to be. It’s a shame though since, barring James Bond, the Gunslinger would have been an ideal franchise character for Elba, who truly deserves to be more than a supporting player in blockbusters such as Star Trek and Thor.

    Though The Dark Tower may be disappointing for King fans, it does feature several Easter eggs to King’s other works that may at least keep them occupied.

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