I do not type this review with my hands, he who types with his hands has forgotten the face of his father.
I type with my mind.
I do not write this review with my fingers, he who writes with his fingers has forgotten the face of his father.
I write with my heart.
Okay, so that line won’t make any sense if you haven’t seen the film but trust me, it works. After watching the trailer, the newest Stephen King adaptation, The Dark Tower, looks like an action packed film with two handsome male leads (Idris Elba & Matthew McConaughey) in a head to head battle over the fate of Earth. What audiences end up with is a film, seemingly chopped together, centering around a kid named Jake (Tom Taylor) who’s intense but somehow unknown psychic abilities have led him to have realistic dreams/visions about another world, “Mid-World”, where he sees a Gunslinger (Elba) battling the Sorcerer or man in black (McConaughey) over a black pillar in the sky that is constantly under siege. This film is based on “The Dark Tower” eight-book series by Stephen King, started in 1982; however, despite the studios desire to turn this into a film/television show series, this first installment doesn’t even start at book 1 of the anthology! The film combines elements from several of the novels, along with other easter eggs from the Stephen King Universe, but timeline wise it all takes place after the book series entirely!
The movie opens with 11-year old Jake Chambers, sweating after another realistic nightmare depicting the man in black plotting the destruction of a dark tower in the sky, in order to bring wreckage and ruin to the world. Like most other movies, Jake’s visions are causing him to act out in school so his parents have sent him to several psychiatrists, who are all saying that these dreams are a form of PTSD since his father passed away. After monsters, posing as nurses from a psychiatric facility, attempt to take Jake away he soon realizes they are the creatures from his dreams; he runs away to an abandoned building he saw in a vision, only to realize it is, in fact, a portal to “Mid-World”. There he meets Roland (Elba), the last Gunslinger, who is desperately hunting Walter (McConaughey), the Man in Black; he brings Jake along once he realizes that Jake has seen visions of Walter’s hideout location. Meanwhile, Walter learns that Jakes visions are actually due to powerful psychic abilities or “shine” ( a reference to The Shining) which can be harnessed to bring down the tower. Using portals to bounce between Earth and Mid-World, the movie eventually culminates in a battle between Roland’s gun slinging abilities, Jake’s psychic skills, and Walter’s sorcery.
Full disclosure: I have not read The Dark Tower Series, however, this film seemed to lack a few things that even without knowing the material for adaptation, I’ve come just to expect from a decent film. There was very little to no back story…at all. No story as to what happened to all of the gunslingers, why Roland is immune to Walter’s powers, how Walter got those powers to begin with, what life was like in Mid-World before the attempted destruction of the tower, etc. By starting at the very end of a series, they’ve given viewers almost no context, which led the film to start off with more questions than answers. Next, there is seemingly no lead character, which would normally be perfectly fine, however this film is marketed as an Elba/McConaughey showdown when really it focuses on Taylor’s character, Jake, who is just a device that pushes the narrative forward in a semi-descriptive way so that all of us with question marks popping up over our head kind of know what’s going on. Even though I had other little issues with the film (don’t get me started on McConaughey’s dialect choices or bad makeup job), a big one for me is that Idris Elba is the only thing salvageable in this film but he just can’t seem to catch a break in Hollywood and get the credit he deserves. He is leading male material but the industry seemingly always overlooks him for a high-roller; he does the best he can with a seemingly limited script yet still manages to deliver depth, humor, grief, and hope, as the most engaging person on the screen.
The Dark Tower tumbles in this forgettable film, which seems like a more violent take on “The Neverending Story”, and is an overall disappointment for longtime Stephen King fans. Even though the gun fetishism is still mildly entertaining, especially for those (like myself) that don’t mind staring at both Idris or Matthew, the stop-and-go rhythm of the film makes it better suited to be watched on an avenue like your local streaming service.