It’s always a shame when a film’s talent is greater than the sum of its parts. The major struggle here is that I really wanted to like The Dark Tower, but it was far too underwhelming and disconnected to be fully engaged in the storyline or the characters. Based on the series of novels by Stephen King, The Dark Tower isn’t the worst movie you’ll see all year, however. It’s not without some good, and occasionally funny, moments, but despite the talents of Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey, the film doesn’t quite work.
Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) has been having strange dreams. They’re visions of the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) trying to topple what’s called the Dark Tower. In Jake’s visions, he sees creatures tying children up and attempting to use them to bring the tower down. A man named Roland, also known as the Gunslinger (Idris Elba), also appears to fight the Man in Black. Jake, on the run from the creatures attempting to kidnap him and use him for his “shine” (psychic powers), escapes and joins forces with the Gunslinger to help take down the sorcerer and prevent the Dark Tower from falling and bringing in a dark and unspeakable evil to the different realms. Obviously, there’s way more to the story than that, but it’s filled with several instances that are probably better left to the books, of which there are eight.
In many ways, the movie felt a lot like being dropped into a story already in the throes of happening, with the audience working to catch up. The Dark Tower keeps trying to catch us up and still the feeling of being left behind persists. There are also a lot of questions the film unintentionally brings up without ever touching upon the answers. How do the Gunslinger and the Man in Black know each other? It’s easy to see their relationship goes beyond the Man in Black failing to kill the Gunslinger. Roland knows the sorcerer’s real name and yet, we’re not privy to any other information about why and how. How did the Man in Black come to power? What started all of this?
With regard to the characters, there’s a sense of detachment. There’s a lot of world building, exposition, and adventure, but none of it comes together in a way to get us to care about what ultimately happens to the characters. They serve the plot, but even the world-ending nature of the storyline couldn’t raise the stakes. Tom Taylor is just ok in his role as Jake Chambers, but it’s easy to see that he’s out of his league while acting alongside both Elba and McConaughey. The far more experienced actors do the best they can with the mediocre script. In Elba’s case, he bring moments of levity and, at the same time, a sense of despair for all that his character has lost; McConaughey, on the other hand, offers a creepy component to his masterfully evil character.
The Dark Tower isn’t an adaptation of all eight books in the series, but it’s also clear that this film is more of a continuation rather than a true adaptation. It’s a story that started somewhere near the end and left a lot behind, making it hard to be immersed in the plot when it felt like a big piece was missing. In terms of book adaptations, there have definitely been worse, but it still remains that The Dark Tower unfortunately won’t be a film that will be remembered beyond the final credits and boasts a cast whose talents are far superior to the story being told.
In terms of book adaptations, there have definitely been worse, but it still remains that The Dark Tower unfortunately won't be a film that will be remembered beyond the final credits and boasts a cast whose talents are far superior to the story being told.