The Dark Tower: A Review

Posted: 08/07/2017 in Uncategorized

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The line “The man in black fled into the desert, the gunslinger followed” opens the seven book opus that builds a new world rife with references as far ranging as old style spaghetti westerns to Wizard of Oz and all things in between. With the series, Stephen King world builds and draws into his world elements of all his greatest works. The scope and breadth of such an undertaking is as mind-bendingly surreal as it is brilliantly captivating. This is not what the Dark Tower delivers.

This is a 94 minute action film with sci-fi and fantasy elements. Horribly miscast Idris Elba does not convey the grim hurt and romantic pathos that made Roland Deschains such an empathetic and complex character. Within the first twenty minutes, any misgivings proved justified as the one most resounding aspect of the protagonist is wantonly dismissed. Roland’s obsession with the dark tower and its preservation frames the entirety of King’s magnum opus. What he willingly and hesitatingly gives up to attain it is astoundingly brutal and heart wrenching. When Elba’s Roland declares “to hell with the tower, I’m here to kill Walter..” the film has failed…grandly. The battle of Jericho Hill which is so integral to the character’s lonely wandering and eschewing of friendship is replaced by a father and son battle sequence which falls so terribly flat.

McConaughey as Walter Paddock is clearly here for the pay cheque as he brings only the slightest menace as he wanders around in his black coat being cruel and not the least bit seductive. Horribly wasted is Katherine Winnick of Vikings fame as Jake Chambers’ mother. So much was changed. Liberties? Nay, overwrites. Honestly, the film could easily have been classed as “loosely based on the works of Stephen King” as it strays so far from point.

Tom Taylor as Jake Chambers does a good job getting at the heart of the character but his back story and true purpose are so twisted from the source material, in fact mingling elements of another brilliant King Series, namely “Black House” from the Jack Sawyer series. It is a mish mosh, a mess but one with so much potential. Elba is overrated. He has charisma and presence but simply does not get the character. His moments in New York play for laughs but cheaply so. The end moments between Roland and Jake that take so long to organically occur in the novels simply happen here. I heard myself mutter  at one point “Now let’s go out for frosty chocolate milkshakes” via 1989 Simpson Series’ moments.

About the only positive I can muster revolves around the gunslinger aspects that are actually retained. The shooting/battle sequences are top tier, particularly when one witness the fluidity and speed at which Roland loads, reloads and shoots with blistering accuracy. The gunslinger’s mantra about “killing with one’s heart” is given due credence but is quickly wiped away with a dismissive, ‘guns are my weapon’. The “Shine” aspect which was a minor element tagged as “the sight” in the novels, an anticipatory instinct, here becomes full on psychic and telekinetic abilities. So very much is scrambled and the ensuing omelet tastes horrible.

The powers that be had a long, winding road to bring this film to screen. I think back on the opening line that set it all up and think that maybe Roland and Walter will just keep riding on through that desert and leave this poor reflection behind. “The Dark Tower” is ok if you want a simple actioner and have no investment in any of the characters. It can easily stand as a one off and probably will. The Dark Tower overall is neither worth your time nor simply outstanding.

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