KING’S TOWER TOPPLES
The Dark Tower
Review by Ray Schillaci
I remember when I read the first of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, and thought to myself, how glorious it would be if someone had the vision to bring it to the big screen. But, as I continued on with the books, my thought process changed to what a challenge and nightmare it could be to even attempt such a feat. After many years of rewrites, directors and producers, SONY Pictures finally delivers one of the biggest King adaptation disappointments, and that’s putting it mildly.
The Dark Tower turns out to be a huge time-waster. Its parts are so easily interchangeable, the damn thing looks like it was written by a litany of writers and the executives merely chose the sequences that would bring in the best demographic. The powers that be have whittled down King’s monumental fantasy to a basic good vs. evil story with visuals derivative of so many other better fantasy films including 1983’s Krull. As cheesy as that movie was, at least it was fun.
Annoying exposition, that explains little of what is going on, characters so bare-bones, they appear to be on Slim Fast, and action sequences that are in dire need of a resuscitator makes me wonder why the studio even bothered to put this out. If there is one positive note amongst all the negative, it is Idris Elba as Roland, “The Gunslinger”. Elba brings a weary grace to his character, and demands attention, but sadly, Elba’s presence is not enough to save this end of our world tale, and you’ll wish it would end much sooner than later by the time credits roll.
Those who have not read King’s fantastical tale will be easily lost with this matchstick of a story that goes up in flames within the first half hour. We’re treated to Matthew McConaughey as annoyingly slight and comic book evil as Walter, “The Dark Man”. Walter is having children strapped to a chair and using their “shine” to tumble down a tower that, when toppled, can destroy multiple dimensions. Why’s he doing it? Oh yeah, because he’s the heavy. No real thought conveyed, but McConaughey does get to strut around like a peacock espousing how everyone cannot see how dismal life really is.
But the tower cannot be toppled without “the chosen one”, and it’s always a young kid, right? Tom Taylor as Jake plays the misunderstood kid with “the shining” (wow, a reference from another better movie from King’s famed novel), and he’s neither bad nor engaging. It may not be his fault due to such weak writing. He honestly appears to be trying, but none of what he does ever connects with us. Jake resides in our dimension, and has visions of Roland, Walter, and “The Tower”. He also happens to catch glimpses of other beings hiding in human skin that are searching for him.
After earthquakes, incidents at school, and visits to therapists, Jake is tossed into Roland’s world. For maybe five minutes, Roland appears to be annoyed with this kid from another dimension, but quickly wants to team up with him to defeat Walter. It all sounds conventional and convoluted, and becomes total crap by the third act. There is talk about the legend of the “Gunslingers”, but it does not warrant our attention, just like Roland’s prowess with a gun feels more like a gimmick rather than something we’re suppose to be in awe of, like the way we felt when we first witnessed Legolas’ archery skills.
At one time, there were such big plans for The Dark Tower series adaptation. Talk of a trilogy of movies that would lead into a very ambitious television series. The material was there if handled with care and love as Peter Jackson did with his first Tolkien trilogy. Instead, we get an hour-and-a-half CliffsNotes version of an entire set of books that dare I say ranks up with the Super Mario Bothers movie, sans the attempt at humor.
Directed by: Nikolaj Arcel
Release Date: August 4, 2017
Run Time: 95 Minutes
Distributor: Columbia Pictures