The Dark Tower
Rated: PG-13 for Thematic material including sequences of gun violence and action.
Review by: Benjamin Ferrarini
“The Dark Tower” is based on a set of serialized stories by author Steven King. It is Directed by Nikolaj Arcel (“A Royal Affair”) and staring Idris Elba (“Pacific Rim”) and Matthew McConaughey (“Interstellar”). King’s original series spanned eight books written between 1998 and 2004. A film adaptation has been in production since 2007 and has gone through a number of changes in that time. In its current form I suspect the film is adapted from the first novel “The Gunslinger” as it is only an hour and a half and only covers part of the overall story. While I know some of the basics of the story from the books I have not actually read any of them and that means my review will be purely of the film. Thus the question is: does the film stand on its own?
The film opens on a boy named Jake Chambers played by new comer Tom Taylor. Jake is having vivid dreams of another world, of a man dressed all in black and a lone gunmen wondering a wasteland. Jake is convinced his dreams are actually visions and that they are tied to a series of earthquakes. Jake’s visions lead him to a derelict house which contains a portal into Midworld, the place of his visions. Jake comes across the Roland and gunman from his visions. Roland played by Elba tells Jake that his visions are indeed true. The dark tower he’s seen is at the center of a number of realities protecting them all from a malevolent force known as the darkness. The man in black, Walter played by McConaughey, is an agent of the darkness seeking to destroy the tower so evil can overtake all the realms. Jake begins traveling with Roland not realizing Walter is hunting them believing Jake holds the power to destroy the tower once and for all.
“The Dark Tower” is basically a good vs. evil story with some action/fantasy elements. There are callbacks to other Steven King stories such as Jakes psychic abilities which are dubbed “shine” reminiscent of King’s “The Shinning”. The dialog is solid and the acting passible for the most part. However, there’s no question Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey carry the film. Elba with his strong stoic “Gunslinger” is compelling to watch. McConaughey exudes a cool charisma as he swaggers across screen. Director Nikolaj Arcel does his best balancing the dramatic human elements with the action not letting one overtake the other. Instead he uses the human elements to motivate the story going for something character driven more then plot driven. The action scenes themselves have a good sense of energy with a nice visual flair.
The film is only 90 minutes and it moves fast with is both to its benefit and detriment. The pacing keep things moving, building energy and keeping the film interesting. Unfortunately the film moves a little too fast for its own good. There is an inescapable sense that there is a lot more story then what we’re seeing, a larger world that we only get a slight glimpse of. That is to say there are times, names and places which the film employs but without enough context to understand them. Walter has a number of minions he uses to do his bidding but it’s never revealed what these creatures are or where they came from. Likewise Roland’s order of Gunslingers is never explained either. We know they are defenders of the Tower but are never told where they came from. There are other moments sprinkled throughout that seem to be references to elements I assume are from the books. Roland and Walter’s powers are never quite defined so there doesn’t appear to be anything to anchor what they can or can’t do. This is especially true in one sequence which sees Roland with some wound that troubles him one moment then suddenly isn’t a problem anymore. Perhaps the film is too dependent on a knowledge of the novels or it is counting on future sequels to build out the world. Either way this film doesn’t stand on its own very well as it leaves too many fundamental questions unanswered.
“The Dark Tower” is a fun film that is enjoyable if you’re not looking for anything too deep. It offers action and a simple enough plot. Sadly however, there are too many parts that don’t quite work. With out more context to ground the fantastical elements they offer spectacle but not much else. Again I can’t speak to how well the film represents the books but as a film it doesn’t stand on it’s own very well and that’s a shame as some parts do work pretty well.
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