Fans of Stephen King have always been highly polarized on film adaptations of his novels, and The Dark Tower looks to follow in that proud tradition. Referred to by King as his “opus”, the 8 book series was originally published in 1982, and has even been done in comic form.
The film got a rough start, originally it was going to be a tv series on HBO, then a film, now it’s a film and a tv series again if this report from The Nerdist from yesterday can be believed. It’s been a long road for the Gunslinger, and it seems like there’s still quite a journey ahead.
Director Nikolaj Arcel had his work cut out for him, adapting the script from Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, and Anders Thomas Jensen to fill the meager 1 hour 35 minute run time. Yes, I say meger, because there really should have been more to this film.
We meet Roland the Gunslinger played by leather duster wearing Idris Elba, who along with his father try to bring down The Man In Black played by Matthew McConnaughey, an evil magic user who’s sole purpose is to bring down The Dark Tower. The Tower is a spire that exists at the center of all universes, tieing them together and protecting them from the unseen evil that lives right on the outskirts of the protective force. For reasons unknown in the film, Walter (The Man In Black) harnesses the power of children in the form of a concentrated beam of power to strike the tower, which results in earthquakes felt across the various dimensions.
On ‘Keystone Earth’ (our plane of existence) there is Jake (played by Tom Taylor), a 14 year old boy with special psychic gifts (The Shine, no really, it’s all connected, Kingphiles) who sees visions of The Tower and the fight. He draws his dreams, his poor mother (played by Vikings star Katheryn Winnick) thinks him insane until she doesn’t, and ultimately is an underserved character.
The film progresses about how you’d expect, nothing is really explained to the viewers who may not be familiar with the story. For a world and mythos so vast, this really just feels like a surface scrape, in order to get the average film going audience familiar with the premise and language.
SCORE: 2.5 out of 5, viewed in standard non 3d
The Good: The casting was pretty inspired this time around for a King adaptation, although Elba’s fish out of water in the middle of New York City shtick is nothing new, he is mesmerising to watch deal out his bullets. McConnaughey is the true surprise performance, this controlled and dark personality so different than the roles we’ve seen him tackle in the last decade. The effects were fine, the score from JunkieXL was fine, the film was….fine.
The Bad: After all the waiting and hype for this film, I was really hoping for a reinvention of urban spaghetti western fantasy. Sure, it’s a little steampunk and a little “Wheel of Time”, but the overwhelming sense of “thats it?” when the credits hit left me disappointed. Does this mean I’m in for another feature? Yes, I’ll see it, but I was really hoping for more from this first chapter.
I can’t wait to see what my King fans think of it, as they will be the true audience for this feature.
The Dark Tower opens worldwide on Friday, August 4th 2017.