The Dark Tower movie review: A sour and disappointing action fantasy that fails to entertain
In a middle of the blockbuster movie season, a generic action movie sticks out like sore thumb. But well regarded source material being turned into a generic action movie — that really hurts. This is unfortunately the predicament of The Dark Tower — a sour and disappointing action fantasy that simply fails to entertain.
The film is based on Stephen King’s famous book series of the same name, and although I had never read the source material there has been a large enough fan following to ignore the significance of the series. Over the years many ardent fans of the books had called the story ‘un-filmable’; the film languished in development hell for many years, passing many directors’ hands, and ultimately landed with the Danish filmmaker Nikolaj Arcel who earlier made The Royal Affair. To anyone who has not read the books, The Dark Tower comes across as an unfocussed, incoherent mess with little to appreciate in the action of VFX department — and it’s hard to imagine that anyone who adores the books will find this a worthwhile adaptation.
The story is told through the point of view of a kid named Jake (Tom Taylor) who experiences visions of a dark tower and a man in black clothes (Matthew McConaughey) who seems intent to destroy the world. After being chased by doctors who may actually be monsters, Jake escapes to a post apocalyptic world and meets with the Gunslinger (Idris Elba) who had also appeared in his visions. The Man in Black hot on their trail, with the singular intention to kill them both, Jake and the Gunslinger must do everything they can to save themselves and the world.
While that may seem like a roller coaster adventure, the execution leaves a lot to be desired. The problem is the narrative is haphazard, never really settling down to tell a coherent story. It seems like the writers (four of them) lifted plot elements from different books in the series and inelegantly strung them together. The result is a series of beats that resemble every action fantasy movie ever made — something that should not be the case considering Stephen King’s name is attached to the source.
The lore that unfolds in the story is a predictable ‘save the world’ cop out — and despite the seemingly giant worldwide threat the stakes seem to be really low. This feeling is amplified more so because you already know this is the first movie in a franchise, and there is no way the kid or the Gunslinger would not save the world. Knowing that the protagonists would outlive the villain takes any all semblance of danger or thrill from the film, making this more of a unsurprising slog instead of an exciting movie. Curiously this seems to be the case with many blockbusters lately — a downside forcibly carried by films that are only made to create franchises of multiple films instead of one interesting story.
The frustrating aspect of the film is how it has made Idris Elba and McConaughey look uninteresting. The former especially seems to have really back luck with his movie choices seeing as everything he appears in seems promising but turns into a dull and forgettable event. Perhaps it’s just time for the folks behind the James Bond franchise to grow a pair and give the talented and sophisticated Elba what he truly deserves — the title role.