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Film Review – The Dark Tower (2017)

Stephen King’s writings have made for some wonderful movies over the years, and some pretty atrocious ones too.  The next adaptation of his work, The Dark Tower, has finally been released in theaters after years of development issues.  Containing a great cast with a ton of lore to pull from, does The Dark Tower have enough to be this summer’s sleeper hit or will it be another summer folly?  The following review will be spoiler free.

Synopsis

The Dark Tower is directed by Nikolaj Arcel and stars two A-list talents in leads roles, Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey.

Based off of the sweeping novels from Stephen King, we follow Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), a kid who has strange dreams of a distance world.  He sees visions of a Man in Black (McConaughey) who is attempting to destroy a tower that protects worlds from an army of darkness.  A gunslinger by the name of Roland Deschain (Elba) tries to stop the Man in Black before he accomplishes his goal.

Although no one believes Jake, he quickly learns that his dreams are a reality.

Background

It has been well-documented that an adaptation of The Dark Tower has been in development hell for quite some time.

In 2007, it was announced that J.J. Abrams was set to helm a version of King’s self-proclaimed magnum opus.  However, after seemingly being burned out after creating Lost, both Abrams and his writing partner Damon Lindelof later claimed that they were no longer working on the project, calling The Dark Tower  “tricky.”

Next up was Ron Howard.  Upon starting the project in 2010, it was announced that the film was going to be released in May of 2013.  However, Howard’s initial partnership with Universal Pictures fell through, leaving the rights to The Dark Tower up in the air.

Finally, Sony Pictures and MRC received the rights and fast-tracked the film into development.  However, initial test screenings of the film were very poor, causing serious reshoots to take place.  As you can expect, the film was delayed a few more times because of it.

What I Liked

As to be expected, The Dark Tower boasts great performances from both Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey.  Each actor has a very strong presense about them that is very resonant.

You can tell that McConaughey is enjoying playing the embodiment of evil as The Man in Black.  The role allows him to play up all his signature quirks as an actor as he smirks and whistles his way through some pretty terrible acts on humanity.  At some points, it seems like he’s back in another Lincoln commercial which is meant without an ounce of cynicism.  He whispers to his targets with a certain power that evokes dread and terror.  When you hear him coming, danger is upon you.

Surprisingly, one of the stand outs in the film is Tom Taylor in the role of Jake Chambers.  Since The Dark Tower revolves around a kid, it’s absolutely necessary that the kid actor comes to play.  Taylor is very capable of performing whatever emotion necessary as the lead actor of the story.  He’s downtrodden, angry, or scared whenever necessary.  Each of these emotions are very believable as well.

Tom Taylor and Idris Elba form a nice relationship as the story progresses.  Unfortunately, there isn’t much personality given to this science fantasy western, but what amount of it there is is fully on display with these two characters.  These two could make for a fun pair in future movies moving forward.

What I Didn’t Like

However, these two actors are likely never to get a sequel as The Dark Tower falls flat.  The film is certainly not an atrocity.  It’s quite competently made, in fact.  This movie is one of the rare occurences where its brevity actually hinders its resonance.

The Dark Tower clocks in at about an hour and a half.  Because of this, the expansive world that Stephen King created is reduced to its bare necessities, giving the film zero time to breath.  As a result, story elements are glossed over, causing the world to be quite confusing and almost dull.  We are introduced to a world that we are expected to understand going into the movie.  There’s so many possibilities in this world that are given zero context.

In essence, The Dark Tower is like the series finale of a television show, giving us only glimpses into these characters and the world in which they live.

What I Didn’t Like…Continued

Because the movie is moving so fast between scenes, every character is given hardly any motivation or backstory.  Each person is very surface level.  McConaughey as the Man in Black is menacing, but we aren’t given anything regarding his motivations or the extent of his powers.  The movie hints at a backstory between Idris Elba and McConaughey, but we never understand their relationship.

You can tell just from watching the film that those involved had troubled tackling the source material.  As mentioned above, The Dark Tower‘s production had major issues with narrative flow and clarity, causing serious reshoots to occur.  In some scenes, you can see Tom Taylor switch between being older and younger because the project needed to flesh out scenes a year later.

The most frustrating part about this film is its potential.  Somewhere in here is great movie.  Under better circumstances, The Dark Tower could have been an epic journey unlike one we’ve seen before.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, The Dark Tower falls short of a recommendation.  There’s some amazing possibilities within this world that would have been a great cinematic experience if done correctly, but it’s obvious that those in charge of crafting this film never really quite had a grasp on the material they were handling.  It gets a C.

There’s discussion of a television series for this property which may be the best medium for this property to take place.  This film is one of the few that needed to be an epic.  A movie described as a “science fantasy western” needs some room to breath.


Thanks for reading!  What are your thoughts on The Dark Tower?  Comment down below!

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Nick Kush

A current college student, Nick founded MovieBabble in October of 2016 in order to provide insightful film analysis that is meant to educate and entertain. Nick is also a member of the Internet Film Critics Society. You can follow Nick at the official MovieBabble Twitter account @MovieBabble_

21 Responses

  1. Shane C says:

    The Dark Tower series by Stephen King are my favorite books of all time. After watching this movie, I feel battered. The fact that SK allowed this dog turd to share the same name as his books solidifies his reputation as a complete and total sellout. Forget literary legacy, it’s clearly all about the almighty dollar for him. Sad…heartbreaking. The kid who wrote The Gunslinger is all gone.

    • Nick Kush says:

      I totally get where you’re coming from, I know I’ve been burned by films before where I’ve loved the source material. But, I don’t necessarily share the same venom for Stephen King. Let’s face it, we both know we’d take whatever load of money Sony gave him for the movie, I know I would! He’s called the movie shit since it’s release so it’s not as if he’s selling his soul like James Cameron did with Terminator Genysis.

  2. floatinggold says:

    I’ll probably watch this at some point just for Matthew McConaughey, whom I adore. Before this movie came out, I did some research and found out the Dark Tower is a series of book. How can you do it justice with just one movie? The series is on my reading “to-do” list. It would be interesting to have a TV series based on it! Oh, Lincoln was a legendary show…

    • Nick Kush says:

      The original plan for Sony was to make a movie then have a TV series then have another movie and so on! Maybe that would have been pretty cool if this film had made any money!

  3. Jane Bled says:

    Nothing would anger me more than watching a sub-par version of one of my favorite books. It would be more painful than watching a terrible version that didn’t even try. Probably going to skip it…thanks, Nick. 🙂

  4. Steve says:

    I can feel your frustration bleeding thru your review. I haven’t seen this nor read the source material but I do understand the concept that some films need to be epic or die. Nothing more frustrating than when they choose to be less than their potential. I’ll never understand why some filmmakers are afraid to make a film. If it needs to be epic it needs to be epic. Or go home

  5. jimbelton says:

    I liked this film, though the “Hollywood ending” is much weaker than the ending of the first book, “The Gunslinger”. If a sequel were to be made, it’s hard to see how it could be. In book two (“The Drawing of the Three”), Jake is (book one ending spoiler) dead. Then Roland draws Detta Walker, who calls him a honky mo-fo. How’s that going to work? So, should there be a sequel, further license will have to be taken with the source material. Then there’s the fact that the first half of book 3, “The Wasteland”, was used as the first act in this film.

  6. I’m shocked that this is only 1 hour and 35 minutes long. We live in an age where 2-Plus-Hour-Long films are the norm. There’s no excuse for this story to be that short, especially since the original books have also had several mini-series from Marvel Comics.

  7. firewater65 says:

    I will watch this movie eventually, but I haven’t felt compelled to see it in the theater. Mostly because I enjoyed the source material so much. I’m still waiting for another adaptation of my favorite King novel, The Stand. I thought the mini-series was okay, but so much more could be done with a bigger budget.

    • Nick Kush says:

      I think a lot of his books would do better as a NEtflix series since there’s so much material and depth to all his books.

  8. Jason says:

    Nice review. At least, you enjoyed this movie. Personally, I was frustrated with it. Never read the books, but I was expecting this film to great, especially since its source material. Unfortunately, I was too disappointed with it to fully enjoy it.

    • Nick Kush says:

      I really didn’t enjoy it. I was frustrated like you. There’s so much potential here!

      • Jason says:

        Haha…true, but you gave it a higher grade than me. So, you liked it slightly better than me. However, there was so much potential for this movie to be awesome.

      • Nick Kush says:

        I like the idea of HBO doing a Tv series, they could do it justice!

  9. Damien Riley says:

    Hey there, great review. You may have read that I liked the film more than you did. I felt it worked as it was as a great adventure sci-fi film. I didn’t think about what it could have been. It was a great night out for my daughter and I and we even got free posters 🙂 I think it’s a shame this movie is getting poor reviews, it’s a great film to watch, especially with your tweens at Summers end! I am enjoying reading your reviews though, I’ll be back 😉

    • Nick Kush says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed it! It certainly had its qualities. I’m happy you got more out of it than I did because enjoying film is what it’s all about!

  10. Nick Kush says:

    Thanks so much!

  1. August 5, 2017

    […] via The Dark Tower (2017): An Uninspired, Sparknotes Version of the Popular Source Material — MovieBab… […]

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