THE DARK TOWER – Review
THE DARK TOWER attempts to condense Stephen King’s wide-ranging epic book series of good versus evil into a two-hour film, with results that are unlikely to please many fans, despite a cast that includes Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey.
Idris Elba plays The Last Gunslinger, Roland Deschain, whose task is to prevent The Man In Black, Walter O’Dim (Matthew McConaughey) from destroying the Dark Tower that protects the universe from the demons who would overrun it. In contemporary New York, a 14-year-old boy named Jacob (Tom Taylor) has visions of the Dark Tower, the Man In Black and the Gunslinger, while the city is shaken by periodic mysterious earthquakes. The visions worry Jacob’s mother, who thinks they area manifestation of his grief since the death of his father, but Jacob’s stepfather is less tolerant of the boy and his problems. A magic portal leads Jacob into Mid-World, where he meets and joins forces with the Gunslinger.
Fans of Stephen King’s series will already see departures from the books in that synopsis, but it is much worse than that. Despite creating a certain amount of mood and style in the visuals, the straight-forward plot runs through a series of conventional hero tropes, sucking any magic the fantasy landscapes may create right out of the film. Once in a while, viewers get a glimpse of the story’s potential, but that window closes quickly, and the film resumes its conventional slog.
Nikolaj Arcel directs this perfunctory action film, from a script he co-wrote with Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner and Anders Thomas Jensen. While the visuals and effects are good, better than the film overall, the soundtrack is one of the worst, and most irritating, in recent memory, undermining scenes that might have worked otherwise.
As the Gunslinger, Idris Elba gives it a good try, but there is not much he or the rest of the cast can do with these flat, two-dimensional characters. The Gunslinger acts as an escort for young Jacob, who has strong psychic powers, called the Shine (as in THE SHINING), but his inner struggle over his mission is never convincing. Elba is able to wring a little excitement out of the action scenes but the wooden dialog limits what he can do in other scenes. Likewise, McConaughey has little wiggle room, as Walter O’Dim’s total evilness is never in doubt, set in an early scene where he uses an apparatus to suck the psychic energy out of children in repeated attacks on the Dark Tower. McConaughey is reduced to slyly intoning taunts directed toward his long-time adversary Roland, or ordering people to stop breathing or his minions to kill (even each other). Jackie Earle Haley is pretty much wasted as one of Walter’s henchmen.
Most of the time, the film is stiff and humorless, with simple characters walking through a clockwork of predictable actions. Attempts to inject a little comic relief are limited to a few lines, like the Gunslinger asking if he will have trouble finding bullets in Jacob’s New York, to which the boy replies he’ll love it, or Roland sampling a hot dog, expressing disgust that people on what he calls Keystone Earth each dogs, but then asking what breed.
THE DARK TOWER was eagerly anticipated by fans of Stephen King’s books, so this leaden film has to be a major disappointment. While this flat morality tale might entertain some younger audiences, it does not offer much for the rest of us.
RATING: 2 out of 5 stars