While I sat in the theater and waited for The Dark Tower to begin, I couldn’t help but feel excited. I mean, how could you not? We’re talking about The Gunslinger and the Man in Black here. Good versus evil. One of Stephen King’s greatest stories. Unfortunately, my excitement was all for nothin’. The story is a mess and beyond the excellent performances from the film’s leads, The Dark Tower fails to capture the intensity and heartbreak that made the source material so exceptional.
Now, if you’ve read the books, you’ll already have a good understanding of the characters and plot (though be prepared for a major departure from the way King’s story unfolds), but for those that haven’t, The Dark Tower is about the never-ending battle between good and evil. On the one side, there’s Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), the last Gunslinger and only man preventing the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) from destroying the Dark Tower (a mythical structure that holds the universe together). Just as the Man in Black appears to be close to victory, a young boy from Earth crosses over to Mid-World and is met by the Gunslinger. Together, the two must learn to overcome their fears and stop the Man in Black from unleashing the apocalypse.
Sounds cool, right?
Unfortunately, not so much. Honestly, The Dark Tower is a huge disappointment in my eyes. As I mentioned above, the story was a mess. The leads’ backstories felt like an afterthought, making it difficult to understand their motivation. There was an absence of entertaining or memorable scenes (it’s never a good sign when the best scene is featured prominently in the trailer). And finally, as much as I thought I was going to fear the Man in Black, I didn’t. Despite McConaughey giving his all, his character looked like an extra from Saturday Night Fever. At the end of the day, I guess I’m just surprised that they would take a Stephen King story, and make it, for all intents and purposes, tame.
Despite its many problems, The Dark Tower is not without its redeeming qualities. For starters, Elba’s portrayal of Roland Deschain is easily the best thing about the film and captures King’s original vision of a defeated gunslinger, fueled by anger and revenge. Certain segments of The Dark Tower fanbase may have decried Elba’s casting based on his skin color, but he is definitely the least of this film’s problems. Tom Taylor, who plays Jake Chambers, also does an excellent job, especially since he had to compete with Elba and McConaughey.
While I really wanted to like The Dark Tower, it’s a painfully average movie. It desperately lacks character development, has an absence of memorable moments and the plot is oddly predictable for an adaptation of such a complex fantasy series. Elba and Taylor’s acting is admittedly excellent, but they don’t make up for a story that feels less like a Stephen King adaptation and more like a R.L Stein throw-off.