Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) is an 11-year-old boy who discovers clues about another dimension in nightmares featuring a dark sorcerer, the “Man in Black, Walter (Matthew McConaughey). Following this new mystery, he is spirited away to Mid-World where he encounters a Gunslinger, Roland (Idris Elba) on a quest to protect the Dark Tower — a mythical structure which supports all realities — that Walter is intent on destroying.
Our take: Don’t waste your time, read the books instead.
Post credit scene? No
Full disclosure: neither of us has read the books.
Watching this movie, you’ll feel like you’ve been dropped into the middle of a story, and that’s because you literally have: The Dark Tower is actually a sequel to the last book in Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” series. It’s a movie that was in production hell for ten years and we can finally tell there’s a reason these books have been around for so long and nobody has tried to make them into a movie — it just didn’t translate.
Supposedly the backdoor pilot for an upcoming TV series of the same subject matter, but the lessons that people have learned about past attempts (and occasional successes) at Stephen King adaptations were apparently not on the mind of director Nikolaj Arcel who put out a product that — on paper — could’ve worked very well. Somewhere along the line, he faltered though. And while the studio scrambled to save the movie that was over ten years in the making, all the money and reshoots in the world couldn’t have salvaged this movie.
There is too much wrong with it. Stephen King is known for writing long, detailed, convoluted books. And this film attempted to tackle snippets from 8 of them and condense it into a movie that both fans of the series and lay people (like us) could find enjoyable. Unfortunately, the problem wasn’t that I couldn’t buy-in to the universe that we were dropped into the middle of. Inter-dimensional travel? Sure. Rat creatures in human suits? Let’s do it. Psychic energy from kids used to destroy a huge tower that holds all the universes together and keeps the demons on the outside of the universe at bay? Uhm. Okay, yeah, I’ll give you that one too I guess. The issue wasn’t the exposition, that we could all figure out. It was the execution that sunk the movie.
The casting choices were smart. Taylor is some newcomer that you’ve probably never seen in anything else, but who held his own with the likes of Elba who he shared a lot of screen time with. Elba should’ve been allowed to keep his accent, but played a gun-wielding bad ass convincingly (sadly, much like the latest season of Luther, Elba alone wasn’t enough to keep us intrigued).
And perhaps the highlight of the film was McConaughey. After half an hour of wondering how you were going to suspend your previous notions of him as nothing more than some jackass, middle-aged, white guy (that character he plays in most films in his repertoire), he settles into the role of villain convincingly. More than that, he’s actually great at it and why he’s never gotten to be the big-bad before now is beyond confusing.
The director -– even though he inherited the project -– should’ve had more of a handle on it. He’s probably best known domestically for having directed the original version of “Girl with a Dragon Tattoo,” so he knows how to successfully execute book-to-film adaptations, this was obviously just not one that needed to be adapted.
The cinematography was bad, the movie was dark and nearly impossible to follow in some instances because you couldn’t physically see the characters on screen. On top of that, the dialogue was forgettable, the score wasn’t anything special, the special effects were laughably mediocre, the few attempts at levity by way of humor just fell flat, it was boring and a little slow at times. At multiple points, we had to look over at each other and make sure we were both not enjoying the film.