TL;DR – This is a bare bones movie which really feels that too much was lost in the adaptation
Score – 2.5 out of 5 stars
Oh boy, where to begin here, wow, ok this is going to be a tough one to review. I think part of the problem was that July was such a strong month for movies we had Okja (review), Spider-Man (review), Baby Driver (review), Dunkirk (review) and Planet of the Apes (review). It was such a strong outing that maybe it overhyped me for the rest of the year because since the start of August we’ve had Wolf Warriors 2 (review), Valerian (review), and Logan Lucky (review), all films with immense potential that all failed in their execution, and well this week we have another one to add to that list. Now before we start, I do want to mention I have not read the source material myself so I can’t give a complete comparison to what Stephen King wrote. However, even without reading the book you can infer a few things, which is what we will be doing today. So let’s dive in and look at the world of The Dark Tower.
So to set the scene, in New York lives Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) a young boy that is haunted by dark and vivid dreams. He sees dark figures, the end of the world, a tower that reaches through the clouds, a war between good and evil, and what is waiting to break through and destroy all in its wake. Understandably, these dreams are deeply concerning for his mother Laurie (Katheryn Winnick) and stepfather Lon (Nicholas Pauling) who think it is his unhelpful way of coping with his father’s death. But as earthquakes rock New York and other cities throughout the world, and Jake’s dreams about the attack on the Tower become more vivid, we discover that those dreams are not dreams after all.
Look I am probably going to be quite negative in this review or at least just meh about it, but before I get into that I want to take a moment to look at the things that really work in The Dark Tower, because they are there. Firstly all of the lead characters equip themselves well, which is important when you are trying to get people to commit to a new Sci-fi world. You have the last of the Gunslingers Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), who is a man that we can see that the world has constantly stomped on at every opportunity. Idris gives a great performance that really elevates what could have been a one-note character, and gives another “I would be a great Bond” performance, but oh well. On the other side of the coin, we have the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) a sorcerer that can compel people to do things like stop breathing. It is not a real stretch, but McConaughey does do the creepy intense villain really well. As well as this, Tom Taylor does a remarkable job of making what is a stock standard sidekick character and imbuing it with depth. While the acting was quite good, I also have to give props for some great location scouting, and also on a whole, the visual and practical effects in the film were also quite good.
However, this where it all falls apart for me, because while the acting and locations are good, they are working off a story that just doesn’t work all that well. This honestly feels like they had to strip everything from it to get the story to fit into 90 minutes. Now cutting your story back to its bare bones can sometimes be helpful, it allows you to focus the story, and cut out the erroneous elements that are just in there to create faff. However, by streamlining the narrative it really feels like they had lost a lot of the films charm in the drive to make the narrative more straight forward. So how to put this feeling into words, can you remember back to the M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender when two of the characters meet and the voice over goes “and then they became fast friends’ and you knew that they just condensed a couple of episodes into one line of dialogue, that’s The Dark Tower.
This would be problematic, but the big issue is that this basic storyline leaves the movie with nowhere to hide, so all those small annoying things because very apparent. So, for example, one of the main characters is a gunslinger, but all the gunplay, bar one scene which you have probably already seen in the trailer, was simply dull. Not every movie needs to be John Wick (review) but this is one instance where dialling things back for a PG-13 rating really hurt it. As well as this, there is just no explanation for things, ‘oh he just killed a house daemon’ a what, what does that mean, why are their portals everywhere, who built them, and on and on. Also, this is a movie that cast the amazing Abbey Lee, and just has her stand around looking pretty all movie, seriously one of the lines is about a pretty face will get you far. She is such an amazing actor, I mean go watch Mad Max: Fury Road (review) to see, in fact, Fury Road is a better version of a film like this.
In the end, can we recommend The Dark Tower, look out of all its faults it is a competently constructed film, if a hollow and disappointing one. So it is leagues ahead of other films in that regard. It is just a film that in a drive to be more straightforward, lost its heart, and indeed, much like Ghost in the Shell (review) I honestly think the big issue was that a movie was the wrong medium to tell this story and it showed.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The Dark Tower
Directed by – Nikolaj Arcel
Screenplay by – Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, Anders Thomas Jensen & Nikolaj Arcel
Based on – The Dark Tower by Stephen King
Music by – Tom Holkenborg
Cinematography by – Rasmus Videbæk
Edited by – Alan Edward Bell & Dan Zimmerman
Starring – Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor, Katheryn Winnick, Claudia Kim, Fran Kranz, Abbey Lee, Jackie Earle Haley, Dennis Haysbert, Michael Barbieri, José Zúñiga, Nicholas Pauling & Alex McGregor
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; Germany: 12; New Zealand: M; United Kingdom: 12A; United States: PG-13