Movie, Reviews

“The Dark Tower” Cowboy vs. Evil

Even if you are a big fan of Stephen King the writer who gave us many horror novels that were made into movies like Cujo, Christine, It, Carrie, Children of the Corn and many others, The Dark Tower may not be for you. This action adventure aims for the science fiction base that follows films like Cloud Atlas, John Carter, Guardians of the Galaxy and the recent Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.

Let’s take a look at what the film has to offer and you make a decision whether it’s the writings of Stephen King on which you have been hooked for years. If you have read his novel “The Dark Tower” you have been hooked. However, suspense has been his forte and The Dark Tower has none. Straight forward and predictable, the film version starts with the introduction of a lab that uses the minds of children to generate a powerful beam that’s being used to destroy a monolith that holds the powers of all the Universe. Lead by a dark lord dressed in black, Walter o’Dim (Matthew McConaughey), his major enemy is a gunslinger named Roland Deschain (Idris Elba). Does this sound like something you would like? Well, than this film could be for you.

Walter (Matthew McConaughey) in Columbia Pictures’ THE DARK TOWER.

Pre-teen Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) has been having nightmares and sketches what he remembers from the night before. It has been puzzling him for a long time and recently he has seen people on the street who resemble his images. What makes this important is Jake’s ability to see the conflict between o’Dim and Roland leaving him with thoughts that he may be connected. When Roland appears to him through a portal from an alternate universe, the adventure to save Earth begins.

Roland (Idris Elba) and Jake (Tom Taylor) in Columbia Pictures’ THE DARK TOWER.

Not a lot of directors can handle a story like this and especially a sci-fi adventure that needs a lot of push to make it go. Having a big name book writer like Stephen King helps sell the film, but the interaction of his works are important to his reader base. “The Dark Tower” books are a very intricate series that have long periods of description with the dialogue coming from the mind of the main character. Although Director Nikolaj Arcel gets the story off to a good start, knowledge of the main characters beyond Jake Chambers is slight. He depends on other characters to inform the audience about Roland and o’Dim’s purpose for their actions. With so much to learn about both characters maybe a voice over about each would have helped.

Roland (Idris Elba) in Columbia Pictures’ THE DARK TOWER.

With only 90 minutes to establish the motives, create excitement and develop others within the two dimensions of the universe, it’s a major task even for the likes of JJ Abrams or even George Lucas. Time on the screen for an initial series builder is important and The Dark Tower could have used another 30 to 40 minutes to capture a fan base and allow a proper ending. The film ends screaming for a sequel, but if this one doesn’t get off the ground and make its money back, we’ll never see the light of day for a part 2.

Walter (Matthew McConaughey) and Tirana (Abbey Lee) in Columbia Pictures THE DARK TOWER.

The downsides include lack of experienced direction, a need for a more sinister o’Dim (Man in Black), and additional more interesting and darker support characters. If you are going to make a Stephen King movie from a book of thousands of pages, make it as interesting as a Lord of the Rings. I’m sure there were some juicy characters in King’s alternate universe that could have made The Dark Tower a slam dunk.

The Dark Tower has been rated PG-13 by the MPAA for thematic material including sequences of gun violence and action. The youngsters my get a bit of a scare from some of the visuals and be grossed out by the blood.

FINAL ANALYSIS: Could have been, should have been, much better.

Additional Film Information:
Cast: Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor, Claudia Kim, Jackie Earle Haley, Fran Kranz, Abbey Lee, Katheryn Winnick, Nicholas Pauling, Jose Zuniga, Michael Barbieri, Dennis Haysbert
Directed by: Nikolaj Arcel
Written from a book by: Stephen King
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-fi
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material including sequences of gun violence and action
Running Time: 1 hr. 33 min.
Release Date: August 4, 2017
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures
Released in: 2D

The comments within this review are the critic’s expressed opinions.

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Film Editor John Delia has been on all sides of the movie business from publications to film making. He has worked as a film critic with ACED Magazine for more than 12 years and earned a Bachelors degree in communications from the University of Florida. John is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association. Follow John on Twitter @staragent1 or send John a message at jdelia@acedmagazine.com