“The Dark Tower”: Monsters, Mediocrity, and Matthew McConaughey

“The Dark Tower” was released August 4, 2017 and is directed by Nikolaj Arcel and written by Nikolaj Arcel, Akiva Goldsman, Anders Thomas Jensen, and Jeff Pinker (Rotten Tomatoes). The film is an adaptation of Stephen King’s seven-novel The Dark Tower series, starting with 1982’s The Gunslinger and ending with 2004’s The Dark Tower (according to StephenKing.com). The film stars newcomer Tom Taylor as Jake, a teenage boy who begins having visions of an alternate world and its “dark tower” that holds the all of the worlds together. An evil sorcerer named Walter Padick (Matthew McConaughey) and his many creature-like followers want to destroy the tower, but one of the last “gunslingers” sworn to protect the tower, Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), is determined to stop him (IMDb). I realize this review is belated, but the mediocrity and the many issues with this film make it worth talking about.

I have personally never read the Dark Tower novels, but the premise of the movie did intrigue me. Some Stephen King adaptations have been great (specifically The Shawshank Redemption, one of my all time favorites), and I had faith in the talented cast. Although there were some parts I was surprisingly intrigued by, this movie has several issues and is unfortunately bland overall.

First of all, the writing is the main issue with the movie. Although I did not read the books, the plot of the movie seems too thin and not as complex as I would assume the novels are. As stated earlier, a boy named Jake has visions of the evil Walter Padick and how he wants to destroy the tower. He also has visions of the last “Gunslinger” (something that is not explained very well in the film) named Roland who can stop Walter. Eventually Jake finds Roland through a portal, which causes Walter to come after them. The weird thing is that the story is basic and predictable, but also confusing. The movie is apparently based on the last book in the series, but is also a “sequel” to that material (Cinema Blend). Because of this and the film’s 90-Minute Runtime, people not familiar with the books are left confused and uninterested, and the fans of the books are left unsatisfied by an unfaithful adaptation.

Another problem is the characterization. Most of the performances are actually fairly solid, with Taylor being a highlight. He brings enough emotion to the character of Jake and actually does pretty well in a few dramatic scenes. The problem is that his character is not developed enough, so he comes off annoying at times. Matthew McConaughey is also naturally entertaining as the villain, but the issue lies in his character being very underdeveloped, as well as his performance coming off as “phoned-in” at many times. A more positive aspect, however, is Idris Elba as Roland. The beginning shows his father being killed by Walter, which gives him motivation that propels his character the rest of the movie. His performance is not only more passionate, and but Elba is simply very good at does, which makes his character more likable.

The movie did surprise me at times, however. At one point, I accepted the movie was not going to be good, and so I was impressed at times with the direction of the film. Arcel does a good job of setting up the scenes in a way that make it visually intriguing, which in turn make some of the action scenes well-done also. The cinematography, design, musical score, and visual style are also all positive aspects. The ending was also not bad, and was actually uplifting and slightly satisfying. The issues in the film lie in the screenplay and how the book was adapted. Taking a seven-book series, making the film 90 minutes, not following the book’s material, and then on top of that making the story bland does not make a good film. Overall, although it had some parts that surprised me, this movie made too many mistakes to warrant another viewing.

Overall Rating: 4.5/10     

Letter Grade: C

Resources:

StephenKing.com. “The Dark Tower – Books.” StephenKing.com. N.p., n.d. Web

“The Dark Tower (2017).” IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 10 Sept. 2017

Arcel, Nikolaj, Akiva Goldsman, Anders Thomas Jensen, and Jeff Pinkner. “The Dark Tower.” The Dark Tower (2017) – Rotten Tomatoes. N.p., 05 Sept. 2017. Web.

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