Movie Review: “The Dark Tower”
The Dark Tower
Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) is a young boy who has strange dreams of another world. He has visions of the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) and the Gunslinger (Idris Elba). In those visions, he also sees their quest for the Dark Tower. He sees the Man in Black, an extremely powerful sorcerer, on his mission to bring down the tower.
However, Jake also sees the Gunslinger, a sort of knight who is sworn to protect the Dark Tower. The tower is the centerpiece of an infinite number of worlds and it prevents evil from getting into those worlds. Jake has a psychic connection, known as "shine", that allows him to find a way into the Gunslinger's world to help him stop the Man in Black. If they fail in their quest, the Man in Black will bring down the tower and unleash hell on every world that the tower protects, including Jake's.
The Pros & Cons
The Actors (+6pts)
Too Short, Too Shallow (-8pts)
World Introduction (+4pts)
The Action (+5pts)
Book Fans vs. Non-Book Fans (-3pts)
Pro: The Actors (+6pts)
One of this films biggest draws is its actors, and they do not disappoint. First there was the Gunslinger (Idris Elba), who was a pretty straightforward character on the surface. However, this character had been through a lot. He had suffered a great amount of loss, was blinded by his quest for revenge, and had been alone for a very long time. There was a lot more to this character, but I thought Idris Elba subtly captured a lot of this character's complexity. Then there was Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), who was the main character of this story, as the film pretty much presented everything about the Gunslinger, the Man in Black, and the Dark Tower through Jake's eyes. Without giving anything away, Tom Taylor had to hit a wide variety of emotions in this role and this young actor did it very well. Going into this film, I was ready for Jake Chambers to be one of the movie's weaknesses, but he turned out to be one of its strengths.
Finally, there was the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey). This character was on a mission to bring down the Dark Tower in order to unleash hell on seemingly infinite number universes that the Dark Tower protects. The guy was an evil and extremely powerful sorcerer, but he was also very calm and sly. He was extremely confident in his abilities, had been on his quest for a very long time, and was entertained by his twisted relationship with the Gunslinger. Matthew McConaughey played all of this really well. He was evil, but very much enjoyed the road that he was on, and it made him a dangerous and entertaining antagonist.
Con: Too Short, Too Shallow (-8pts)
This movie threw a lot at its audience. This was an incredibly interesting and massive world created by the mind of Stephen King over the course of eight books. Yet this was just one movie and the filmmakers decided to keep it on the shorter side. Being only about an hour and a half, this movie introduced a lot, but simply did not have the time to dive deep into the source material.
It would have been fine if the filmmakers kept it simple, but threw in plenty of Easter eggs for those who have read the books. Instead, they focused on everything and properly developed nothing. If the filmmakers knew this was going to lead to a television series as well as future movies, then I do not understand why they felt the need to cram as much into this movie as they did. They tried to do too much with too little time, and it did not work in their favor.
Pro: World Introduction (+4pts)
While this movie failed to properly develop almost anything, the movie did a good job of introducing interesting concepts that kept the audience wanting to know more. There were a lot of things that kept me wanting to see how they related to the story, where they came from, and what they are capable of. This is a truly fascinating world there, although there are many worlds within this "world". The filmmakers did not do well at developing much of what they introduced, but they introduced enough to get me intrigued with the world and while leaving me wanting to see more.
Con: Earth (-3pts)
This story took Jake and the Gunslinger on a journey that started with Jake on Earth. Then it took Jake to Mid-World where he met the Gunslinger. Then they needed to go back to Earth. Then they needed to leave Earth again to stop the Man in Black.
If you have read The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three, jumping back and forth between worlds should not have surprised you. It was totally in line with the nature of The Dark Tower series. However, it worked well in the books because there was enough time to develop multiple worlds. Jumping back and forth between worlds would have worked better in the television format, but—for this film—it felt like a shame that we saw so much of Earth—a world we already know well—and did see nearly enough of Mid-World—a world we wanted to see much more of. Then there was the fact that the story kept jumping back and forth within a short run-time, which resulted in a story that felt pretty incoherent.
Pro: The Action (+5pts)
There was not a ton of action in this movie, but the action, that was there, was fun to watch. The film did a great job of depicting Roland's mastery of the guns in his hands, as well as how well he could handle himself in a gunfight. The film showcased the Gunslinger's skill, and the legendary power of his revolvers, by letting him build up a massive kill count in the short hour and a half run-time. The story definitely needed some work, but the action was pretty entertaining while it was happening.
Con: Book Fans vs. Non-Book Fans (-3pts)
This movie struggled with trying to satisfy those who have read the books, as well as those who have not. That seemed to be the root of most of the film's issues. The filmakers wanted to do a sequel to the events of the books, as well as reboot the events that began the Gunslinger's story. If you have read the books, you know how that makes sense. The filmmakers kept the characters the same, but changed the entire plot.
They really told a completely different story. This would have been fine if the focus of the film was consistent. The movie would introduce an element from the books, focus on it so that book readers appreciate it, but did not focus on it long enough to impact the story. That was the filmmaker's plan anyway. Instead they ended up confusing people who have not read the books, disappointed those who have, and left everyone wanting to know more. By trying so hard to please everyone, the filmmakers ended up disappointing most.
Grade: C+ (76pts)
I really enjoyed this movie, but I know I am in the vast minority. I started reading Stephen King's The Dark Tower series late last year, have finished the first few books, and look forward to starting the next. I say this because I believe that I am in a unique demographic for this film. I got a lot of references to the books, so I was not nearly as confused as audiences who have not read any of this series. I also have not been waiting for a film adaptation for over a decade like many people have, so was not disappointed when the filmmakers took this story in a different direction than the books did. I enjoyed this movie for what it was. I thought it was an entertaining version of the story with fun action sequences, fun Easter eggs, and it left me wanting to see—and read—so much more.
That being said, I was able to see the film’s problems, and how big those problems may have been to many viewers. It did a poor job of elaborating on all the interesting concepts it introduced, and it felt way too short. A television series about The Dark Tower is coming. If you have not read the books, I recommend waiting for the television series or read the books and come back to this movie, as there were plenty of things in this movie that were not explained properly. If you have read the books, I recommend seeing this movie, but be aware that this film is not a straight adaptation and will end up feeling like it only scratched the surface of this story. It was an average movie, but to anyone who has been waiting years for this film, it will most likely be a disappointment.