There is a plethora of Stephen King adaptations to see. The Dark Tower isn’t one of those. Through all the production troubles this film has had, it sure shows when you watch this movie. The film tested poor with early screenings and it’s hard to imagine it was worse than it turned out in the end. What it became, is a rushed, borderline nonsensical sci-fi film that it is ultimately nothing more than another generic summer movie under a recognizable name.
The movie features ample performances from Matthew McConaughey, Idris Elba and Tom Taylor. The latter of them plays Jake Chambers, the kid who dreams of the land beyond Earth. McConaughey plays the Man in Black, a sadistic sorcerer who wants to make sure the title tower falls. If it does, it unleashes hell on earth. That is about the extent of what is explained. For a movie called The Dark Tower, you rarely see it. Despite that, the Man in Black is just a bad guy for the sake of being a bad guy. Why does he want the tower to fall? Who knows. That character quality radiates to the other characters. Jake has a contentious step-dad who fits every cliched iteration of that character perfectly.
Meanwhile, Idris Elba has some equally as confusing backstory and seeks revenge on behalf of his father. Elba is The Gunslinger, a washed up and grumpy outlaw who seems to be the only one, aside from Jake, who cares about the tower falling. In fact, if anyone in their world cared any less, they’d be the makers of this film. I don’t mean to demean any hard working individual. I respect the art of film. What I simply see in this movie is laziness. The movie expects the viewer to know everything about this world even if you haven’t read any of it. Elba is only incapable of becoming his old self, until he recites the gunslingers creed.
The film uses the creed as a plot device to propel to its ultimately dissatisfying conclusion. Throughout the film, the Man in Black is built up to be this unbeatable force. Of course, you can guess what happens without me telling you. It’s that predictability that plagues the film from the start. Each scene bleeds into the next, and for a 90 minute film, it seems unbearably long. I checked my watch more frequently than I have during any movie of recent memory.
Perhaps there was something to be created here. Perhaps the movie should’ve been longer. Instead of taking its time and really building this world and its characters, director Nikolaj Arcel chooses to rush through. In return, the movie expects us to want more when everything is so neatly wrapped up in the end. Is there anyone else who wants the tower destroyed, or is the Man in Black the only one who cares? Arcel doesn’t take the time to care, so why should the audience? Sure, the Man in Black has his minions, but what are they good for without him? Seemingly nothing.
It’s hard to believe Stephen King didn’t like The Shining but enjoyed this adaptation. Arcel and Sony have no idea what they want this to be. If they wanted The Dark Tower to start a franchise, they certainly didn’t put enough effort into ensuring its success. There are always shades of the potential this property shows throughout the film. The Dark Tower could have been a really cool, sci-fi western combination that brought a little uniqueness to the big screen. Instead, it’s another typical action flick that is just a place filler for a summer movie season coming to a close.