Movie Review: The Dark Tower
The Dark Tower, based upon the Stephen King novels, finally hit theaters over the weekend after several reports of a troubled production. After three different iterations being planned and developed over the past ten years, finally Sony with Media Rights Capital secured the project. It was directed by Nicolaj Arcel, who is best known for his work on A Royal Affair. It starred Matthew McConaughey as the Man in Black, Idris Elba as the gunslinger Roland, and Tom Taylor as Jake Chambers.
The film begins with events on what appears to be another world; in these events, children are being taken and used to destroy a huge, dark tower. Jake Chambers, an eleven-year-old who recently lost his father, wakes after seeing this vision and begins drawing what he has seen. He has pictures posted all around his room of locations in this world, a gunslinger who is supposed to protect the world, and a villain name the Man in Black who seeks the tower’s destruction. Jake is convinced that his visions are real, but his Mom and stepfather don’t believe him and attribute the dreams to the trauma following his father’s death. When a group from an alleged psychiatric facility come to retrieve Jake for treatment, he recognizes them as some of the creatures from his dreams. He escapes and finds a portal to the other world, which sets him on a path to meet the very people he’s been dreaming about: the gunslinger and the formidable Man in Black. In this world, Jake’s abilities are revealed as he teams up with the gunslinger and learns more about the tower and what will happen if it falls.
Overall, The Dark Tower had some really good moments to it, but it also had quite a few bad sequences as well. The absolute standout for me is Tom Taylor, the young man who portrayed Jake. Jake’s character is observant and quick, and he faces a lot of tough circumstances for a kid of that age. He has some really great emotional moments in the film, and I felt a connection to him through the course of the story. Of course, Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba’s performances were great, but I felt like their characters lacked a lot of the depth that we were given in Jake. The chemistry and connection between Elba’s gunslinger and Jake was also fantastic and contained some of my favorite moments from the movie.
In addition to the performances, I thought a lot of the mythology was fascinating. The idea of a tower that if destroyed would unleash unspeakable horrors and demons into all worlds, including ours, is intriguing. The mythology of the gunslingers and their role of protecting the tower was very cool, and I liked the small bits of connection between the tower and some of King’s other properties like IT and The Shining. However, while the mythology was fascinating, there was also a great lack of it throughout the movie. There are plenty of things they didn't expound upon like who these creatures are that are wearing humans skins and why Elba is able to resist McConaughey’s magic. I would have also liked to know where the machine in the beginning had come from and what the story was there, but that is one of many details that are missing from this film. The story suffers greatly from the time limit of an hour and a half, and for that reason, the story often seems jumbled or too thin.
There were also some terrible CG moments at the end, and to be perfectly honest, the ending of the film was underwhelming. So, to say The Dark Tower had several shortcomings would be an understatement. Can it still be enjoyable to watch? I think it can, but at the end of the day, the film was too light on story and too short on time. It doesn’t do the source material justice, and while there are great character moments, they cannot outshine the numerous shortcomings the movie presents. I would say to skip the theater on this one and save it for a rainy day on Redbox.