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Movie Review: The Dark Tower
Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) is a young boy who, when dreaming, has visions of another world. He has visions of The Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) and The Gunslinger (Idris Elba). Both of their fates circle The Dark Tower. The Man in Black is an extremely powerful sorcerer who wants to bring down The Dark Tower. The Gunslinger is a knight (of sorts) who is sworn to protect The Dark Tower. The Dark Tower is the centerpiece of an infinite number of worlds and 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 and help him stop The Man in Black. If they fail in their quest, The Man in Black will bring down The Dark Tower and unleash hell on every world the Tower protects.
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 we have The Gunslinger, Roland Deschain (Idris Elba). On the surface, this is a pretty straightforward character. When you dig deeper, there is a ton of complexity within him. This character has been through a lot. He has suffered a great amount of loss, is blinded by his quest for revenge, and has been alone for a very long time. Theres a lot more to this character, but the point is that, I felt, Idris Elba subtly captured a lot of this character's complexity.
Next we have The Man in Black, Walter O'Dim (Matthew McConaughey). This character is on s mission to bring down the dark tower and unleash hell on earth. The guy is an evil and an extremely powerful sorcerer, but he is also very calm and sly. He is extremely confident in his abilities, has been on his quest for a very long time, and is entertained by his twisted relationship with The Gunslinger. Matthew McConaughey plays alll of this really well. He is a "cool" and sly villain whom enjoyed watching.
Last, but definitely not least, we have Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor). Jake is the main character of this story as the film explains his visions of The Gunslinger, explains his visions of The Man in Black, and follows him on his journey with The Gunslinger. Tom Taylor brought so much to this movie. He gives a great performance that carries heart of this film. I do not want to give any spoilers, but Tom Taylor has to hit a wide variety of emotions in this role and this young actor does it very well. Going into this film, I was ready for Jake Chambers to be one of the weaker aspects, but he turned out to be one of the strongest.
Con: Too Short, Too Shallow (-8pts)
This movie throws so much at its audienc. This is an incredibly interesting and massive "world" created, by the great mind of Stephen King, over the course of eight books. This is just one movie and the filmmakers decided to keep it on the shorter side. Being only about an hour and a half, this movie introduces so much but simply does not have time to delve deep into the source material. It would be fine if the filmmakers threw a lot in this movie, but kept most of it as Easter eggs for those who have read the books. Instead, they focused on everything and elaborated on nothing.
If the filmmakers knew this was going to lead to a television series as well as future movies, I cannot understand while they crammed as much as possible into a small amount of time. The filmmakers forgot a very important life lesson, quality comes before quantity.
Pro: World Introduction (+4pts)
While this movie fails to elaborate on anything, the novie does a good job of introducing interesting concepts that keep the audience wanting to know more. There were a lot of things th kept me wanting to see how they came to be involved, where they came from, and what they are capable of. This is a truly fascinating "world" (figure of speech; there are many worlds in this "world") that I really hope I can see unfold all over film and television.
Con: Earth (-3pts)
This plot takes Jake and The Gunslinger on a journey that starts with Jake on Earth. Then it takes Jake to Mid-World where he meets The Gunslinger. Then they need to go back to Earth. Then they need to leave Earth again to stop the Man in Black. Now 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 is totally in line with the nature of The Dark Tower universe. However, that worked well in the books because there was ample time to develop multiple worlds. Jumping back and forth between worlds would have worked better in the television format. 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).
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 does a great job of depicting Roland's mastery of the guns in his hands, as well as how well he handles himself in a gunfight. The film showcases 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 runtime.
Con: Book Fans vs. Non-Book Fans (-3pts)
This movie struggles with trying to satisfy those who have read the books as well as those who have not. That seems to be the root of most of the film's issues. The filmakers wanted to do a sequel to the events in the books as well as reboot the events that begin 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 be fine if the focus of the film was consistent. The movie will introduce an element from the books, focus on it so that book readers appreciate it, but do not focus on it long enough to impact the story. That was the filmmaker's plan anyway. Instead they confused 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 doing the opposite.
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 and have finished the first two books (I look forward to starting the third). I say this because I believe 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. 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.
I am able to see the films problems, and how big those problems are to others. It does a poor job of elaborating on all the interesting concepts it introduces and it feels way to short.
There will be a television prequel to this movie. If you have not read the books, I recommend waiting for the television series and come back to this movie after (or read the books). If you have read the books, I recommend seeing the movie but be aware that this film is not a straight adaptation and may end up feeling too shallow. It is an average movie, but to anyone who has been waiting years for this film, it will most likely disappoint.