Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” book series has layers of science fiction, horror, mystery, western, and fantasy and it is has long been thought of as unadaptable for the movie screen. Now that it is on film, “The Dark Tower” is officially a disaster with zero levels of anything and should have firmly stayed in the unadaptable column.
How does a 95 minute long movie manage to have a plot that is simultaneously simple and confusing? “The Dark Tower” makes it happen. It looks, sounds, and feels like a TV pilot destined to be passed on by the likes of the SyFy Network or Crackle. The effects are “meh” at best and not even talented actors like Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey can make this dialogue anything but cringe-worthy.
“The Dark Tower” is mind-boggling. A story loaded with violence and salty language is reduced to a PG-13, almost family-friendly action movie that turns the book’s main character, Roland (Elba), into a one dimensional grouch whose only purpose is to look cool while firing his pistols. This decision alone is truly the perfect storm of studio interference, rookie directorial mistakes, a horrendous screenplay, and the blatant, desperate attempt at franchise building.
Instead of Roland, “The Dark Tower” chooses to focus on Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), a New York 11-year old with psychic abilities. Jake sees visions while he sleeps that show him the events occurring on Mid-World (another planet), which involves a lengthy battle between Roland, a.k.a. The Gunslinger and The Man In Black, a.k.a. Walter (McConaughey). He believes that the earthquakes occurring in New York are related to the The Man In Black’s attacks on Mid-World’s Dark Tower…which has something to do with protecting the universe.
How does The Dark Tower protect the universe? Not sure. Why does The Man In Black want to destroy it? Unclear. What does it all have to do with psychic children being strapped into some kind of Death Star ripoff laser? Details are hazy.
This all leads to Jake finding a portal that takes him from Earth to Mid-World where he meets up with Roland and they go on the hunt for The Man In Black. Thankfully, their journey takes them back to Earth and the few moments of “fish out of water” comedy from Elba makes “The Dark Tower” entertaining for about eight minutes.
At least Arcel and this team of screenwriters (too many to mention, even without rewrite credits) try to give Roland somewhat of a backstory. Of course, it’s done with an awkward scene that is tossed in with no regard for timing or emotional importance. The majority of the movie is edited so poorly that you can pinpoint the scenes added well after initial shooting was finished and every scene meant to have some sort of impact is sequenced with the subtlety of a baboon.
It’s almost upsetting that “The Dark Tower” is as awful as it is considering that Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey are really perfectly suited for their respective roles. Elba broods, glares, and growls, perfectly showing his character’s solitude. However, since “The Dark Tower” wants to hurry up and finish, Elba is forced into lengthy dialogues of plot exposition better suited to be shown instead of verbally explained. It’s awfully boring and uneventful and based on Elba’s effort during those moments, he’s fully aware of it.
If someone assumed that Matthew McConaughey really villains out, chews up all the scenery, and goes Full Pacino as The Man In Black, you’d be wrong. He’s actually quite understated and effective, but saddled with nothing more than being bad for bad guy’s sake. When he walks into his hidden secret lair and barks out orders to his team of underlings, you can almost see the look on his face acknowledging the absurdity of it all. The only thing keeping these moments from being a carbon copy of Dr. Evil would be McConaughey putting a pinky finger to the corner of his mouth while maniacally laughing.
By the end, “The Dark Tower” will leave your eyes so glazed over that you may miss the preposterous final battle between Roland and The Man In Black. McConaughey, an Oscar winner that has elevated nearly every movie he’s been in for the last five years, is left looking like a Dungeons and Dragons reject, waving his hands around while using his “magicks.”