Review - 'The Dark Tower'
I haven't read Stephen King's The Dark Tower novels, but just watching this adaptation, I knew that there was no way this is what the fans of the books were looking for. While the film isn't without the occasional bright spot, it still manages to fail on just about every conceivable level.
The Dark Tower tells the story of Jake, a boy troubled by visions/dreams of horrific occurrences in another world. When the monsters from his dreams appear in his world, he narrowly escapes them through a portal to Mid-World, where he then encounters the Gunslinger. Jake and the Gunslinger must prevent the villainous Man in Black from destroying the Dark Tower, a structure that protects earth and other worlds from evil.
As a lover of all things fantasy, this movie is especially heart-breaking to me, if only because it squanders such amazing potential. Though I haven't read the books on which The Dark Tower is based, I still knew elements of this story going in, and in the right hands and equipped with the proper budget, this could have been something truly monumental and groundbreaking. Instead, the result is much more equivalent to something like the Paul Bettany misfire, Priest or one of the aggressively mediocre Resident Evil movies.
There are three areas that I feel sealed this film's fate. firstly, it's only an hour and a half long. Don't get me wrong, I like a movie that's short and to the point, but for something like The Dark Tower, there is so much lore to this story that is left on the cutting room floor that could have gone a long way to explain and enrich the story. I wanted a sprawling epic and all I got was a quick run through a cheaply produced hellscape and some shoddy Thor-esque fish-out-of-water moments.
Secondly, the movie just looks and feels cheap. It's basically like a mediocre TV pilot episode that maybe if I were at home and had nothing else to watch would find mildly amusing. Every action sequence or creature encounter is shrouded in muddled darkness and fog to obscure shoddy CGI effects.
Finally, the film makes the woeful decision of having the central character be the boy Jake, and not the much more interesting Gunslinger. Now I'll say this, Tom Taylor, who plays Jake, is not bad. He does the best with the material he's been given and avoids being annoying, which can't be said for many other young adults who inhabit similar roles in other films. Still, I would have much preferred the story centered on The Gunslinger, played pitch-perfectly by the always charismatic Idris Elba. If not for Elba, this film would be a total lost cause. Every time this man is onscreen he commands your attention and he's very easy to root for. The same cannot be said for The Man in Black played by Matthew McConaughey, who is given some of the worst and most cliched lines I've heard all year. Every time the Man in Black made an appearance, it almost always elicited groans or cringes.
As bad as this movie is, there are some positive elements to it. The quick pacing, while problematic, does make for a more painless experience. The movie zips along and while it's not very interesting, it isn't boring either. There's also one decent action sequence towards the end where the Gunslinger is allowed to go all-out and we are treated with some decently choreographed gunplay. Though this is minor, the establishing shots in Mid-World are pretty to look at and make the world seam bleak and believable, if only for a moment.
Overall, The Dark Tower is a massive disappointment. There is so much interesting content that the film decides isn't worth exploring or explaining, and thus the entire movie comes off as half-baked and uninspired. The Dark Tower also feels cheap and the majority of the characters are bland and uninteresting, resulting in an entirely unfulfilling movie-going experience.