Glad to see you guys again! This week’s post is a film review for The Dark Tower. It’s loosely based on The Dark Tower book series by Stephen King. Believe it or not, development for this movie was a huge roller coaster ride. It took years for a major adaptation to hit the big screen. The Dark Tower switched out more than one director, including J.J. Abrams and Ron Howard. Eventually, Nikolaj Arcel took over the film. I’m pretty sure the screenplay was reworked by more than writer too. Was the final product worth the wait? Read my review to find out.
Let’s start with my favorite components. I would say the strongest element in this movie is the three lead roles. Isn’t everything better with Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey? Idris Elba is almost like a modern day Yul Brynner. He’s excellent with tough, stoic, and masculine characters. Elba plays Roland Deschain, the protagonist of Stephen King’s series. He’s a gunslinger who fights for the greater good in a post-apocalyptic world. Roland has a dark and troubled past that left him very jaded. However, he still maintains a sense of righteousness. It was also quite effective when he was paired with a boy named Jack Chambers, played by Tom Taylor. Jake brings out a softer side in Roland and Elba makes the transition seem convincing. In a way, Roland is a western action star, but he also serves as a mentor to Jake. I was surprised with Tom Taylor. Either the role suited him really well or he has good acting chops. I’m not sure which situation is more accurate. Jake seems like a nice kid, but he was born with powerful psychic abilities. Unfortunately, these strange powers turn Jake into a target for the Man in Black, aka Walter O’Dim. Matthew McConaughey plays the Man in Black, Roland’s arch nemesis. He’s a dark sorcerer who wants to destroy the titular Dark Tower. The tower serves as a medium between multiple dimensions. If someone destroys the tower, an entire universe of demons and monsters will bring apocalyptic chaos to Earth and other worlds. McConaughey truly developed into a fabulous actor through the years. The Man in Black is sinister, creepy, and an excellent foe to Roland Deschain. All three of the leading characters brought a lot of life to this film. By the way, I think ladies should try The Dark Tower. I know a handful of women who have crushes on Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey. Give the movie a shot! Maybe you’ll like it.
You probably want to hear about the story. Does it live up to Stephen King’s legendary series? Actually, the overall plot was heavily condensed and altered to fit into a 95 minute film. The movie is also PG-13. A lot of content was changed to suit the rating better. This will offend many hardcore fans of The Dark Tower books. Personally, I appreciated the changes. I wasn’t a big fan of the books. The overarching plot in the books seemed slow yet confusing and the characters weren’t very interesting. I thought the books lacked a considerable amount of action. Furthermore, I don’t understand why there were so many books. The Dark Tower easily could have been a trilogy. Go ahead and scorn me. I don’t care. Elements from several of The Dark Tower books were adapted into this movie and I thought it worked better. The pacing was good and there’s more action. Everything stays on track with the main plot and keeps moving forward. Character development is short, but it’s effective. I also appreciated the mentor and apprentice relationship between Roland and Jake. Their bond developed naturally and genuinely through the film. I think it’s nice to see a positive mentorship for youths in modern cinema. Many critics believe the plot is confusing. Well, it’s not any more confusing than the books. Even though the material was condensed, the basic concept and premise came straight out of the novels. If you want to blame something for the confusing element, take a look at the source material.
I also appreciated the homages to various elements in the Stephen King universe. Several of the characters say Jake has a “shine.” It’s another term for psychic energy and the word was used heavily in The Shining. The Dark Tower also includes strange, rat-like humanoids called Taheen or Low Men who serve the Man in Black. They made quite a few appearances in The Dark Tower books and other works, including Hearts in Atlantis. I also saw a reference to 1408, a haunted room that was featured in one of Stephen King’s short stories. The film briefly included a shop called Barlow and Straker’s. It’s a reference to the main antagonist in ‘Salem’s Lot named Kurt Barlow. He’s a vampire who terrorized a small community. Does that mean we’re going to see more creatures in future Dark Tower films? I don’t know, but it would be cool. For those of you who are Stephen King fans, there are plenty more Easter eggs hidden in The Dark Tower.
Now it’s time for the negative elements. Unfortunately, The Dark Tower was a middle of the road film. Not bad, but nothing special either. Aside from the characters, the other components don’t bring anything exciting or unique to this movie. It’s an average story, the visual effects aren’t great, there aren’t many surprises, and most of the scenes are predictable. In fact, you don’t need to be familiar with the source material at all. The movie will still be predictable. I saw this film at the Cine 1 theater at a Harkins location. It’s kind of the like the IMAX in Edward's theaters. I saw The Dark Tower with Dolby Surround Sound, a huge screen, and a crystal clear picture, but the special effects still weren’t impressive. That says a lot about a film in 2017.
The action scenes are definitely an acquired taste. They’re not typical of a sci-fi action movie. Roland is a crack shot with his pistol, almost like a sniper. Don’t expect huge shootouts with a lot of excitement. An enemy runs toward Roland and then he shoots it dead. Another enemy runs toward him and that one dies immediately too. There’s some novelty to his shooting skills, but it makes the action more abrupt. Part of the action relies on the Man in Black’s magical abilities. He uses telekinesis to throw objects at our heroes. It looks somewhat cool, but that style of fighting also changes the action. There’s finally one big shootout at the end. I waited through the entire movie for that type of scene. It didn’t lack action scenes, but I was still a little bit disappointed. I didn’t see enough monsters either. There should have been more creatures and demons terrorizing the characters in this film. Maybe their budget wasn’t big enough for a slurry of monsters.
I’m pretty sure there’s a plan to make more Dark Tower films. However, that might be a problem because the movie is receiving negative reviews from both critics and Stephen King fans. Some important details from the books were purposefully omitted because they could be explained in later films. For example, you’ll see graffiti that says, “Hail to the Crimson King!” The viewer doesn’t know it, but the Man in Black and the Low Men are simply pawns to a cosmic entity known as the Crimson King. You’ll see the tagline, but it doesn’t have any context. The film makers probably wanted to save that information for a sequel, but it would have been valuable in the first movie. They never mentioned Walter O’Dim’s real name either. His actual name is Randall Flagg and he appeared in several of Stephen King’s works. The Man in Black or Randall Flagg was also the main antagonist in The Stand and The Eyes of the Dragon. Hopefully, The Dark Tower will be successful enough to warrant a sequel.
Ironically, Jake is the central protagonist of this movie. It’s his film and Roland plays a guardian or mentor who rescues him. That was not an effective strategy. Roland Deschain was the undisputed protagonist in The Dark Tower book series. It makes sense because most of the series takes place in his home dimension called Midworld. He’s a gunslinger and action hero who’s on a quest to defeat the ultimate evil. Jake should be his sidekick and a friend who gives a different view on their situation. Even though I enjoyed their relationship, some elements were almost backwards. Roland as the main character was one of the few elements I preferred from the book series.
One of the big issues is the lack of a target audience. Who should watch this film? I couldn’t tell you. Fans of The Dark Tower books might not like it. People who aren’t familiar with the storyline might find the movie confusing and weird. In a way, it’s a post-apocalyptic film, but the elements aren’t hardcore enough to grab that audience. There are influences from westerns, but I doubt fans of the genre will care about The Dark Tower. It has action scenes, but that part wasn’t good enough to draw in the adventure seekers. This movie also has fantasy and sci-fi elements, but you’re better off seeing Marvel, DC, Star Wars, Blade Runner, Planet of the Apes, and other films this year. Every film needs a target audience and I don’t understand why The Dark Tower’s creators didn’t realize that part. But I could be wrong. The Dark Tower might become quite successful at the box office. Time will tell.
Overall, I didn’t mind The Dark Tower, but it was underwhelming. Is it necessary to see this film on the big screen? Absolutely not. The story isn’t great and the visual effects aren’t impressive enough. You can wait for DVD, Blu-Ray, or digital streaming. I’m sure we’ll see The Dark Tower on TNT, FX, Netflix, Hulu, the Syfy Channel, and other networks in the near future. Rumor has it; The Dark Tower will also have a television series adaptation. I still wonder if lack of fan support will cause a problem for those plans. We’ll find out eventually.
That concludes my review for The Dark Tower. Do we have any Stephen King fans in the audience? Leave a comment and share your thoughts. I’m going to review many more films this year. Also keep your eyes open for posts about my trips to various events. I’m attending the Long Beach Comic Con on the Memorial Day weekend. You’ll probably see me at the Dapper Day Expo at the Disneyland Hotel and LosCon at the Marriot near LAX. I’m also going to have more discussions about steampunk and other punk genres. We still have a busy year! Thanks for visiting and enjoy your weekend.
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