The last Gunslinger, Roland Deschain, has been locked in an eternal battle with Walter O’Dim, also known as the Man in Black, determined to prevent him from toppling the Dark Tower, which holds the universe together. With the fate of the worlds at stake, good and evil will collide in the ultimate battle as only Roland can defend the Tower from the Man in Black.
There have been many adaptations of Stephen King’s works over the years, ranging from masterpieces to disasters and everything in between. ‘The Dark Tower’ is one of King’s most celebrated works, a series of novels encompassing a variety of themes, and the attempts to bring it to the screen has faced a series of production challenges over a number of years. Sadly, those production challenges are evident in the finished product (if you can even call it finished) and the movie adaptation is all over the place as it attempts to boil down a complex and epic series to a 90 minute blockbuster. Despite solid casting and an avid fanbase, ‘The Dark Tower’ is a disappointing film that makes you really question the decision making that goes on behind the scenes at major movie studios. More than anything, why didn’t they just make a direct adaptation of ‘The Gunslinger’, the first book in the series?
The film never really makes it clear what it’s all about, with expositional scenes likely to leave audiences more baffled than they were at the start. At its simplest level, the film is about a battle between good (represented by Idris Elba’s Roland Deschain) and evil (represented by Matthew McConaughey’s Man in Black) for the Dark Tower, a symbolic structure that underpins all worlds and realities, which include earth as we know it, and a western style place known as mid world, where the film spends half its time. Our viewpoint into this is through Jake (Tom Taylor), a young New York kid who is troubled by visions of the tower and who eventually finds his way to Roland Deschain. One of many problems with ‘The Dark Tower’ is the hopping between mid world and earth, which really hinders the structure of the film, particularly as the mid world segments show signs of being interesting and the segments in earth are amongst the worst in the movie. It’s particularly frustrating as I can imagine a scenario where this film is good, where the strong casting and displays from Elba and McConaughey are surrounded by a film that is better on just about every level, but ‘The Dark Tower’ misses the mark on just about everything. It’s not often I’ll criticise a film for brevity, but ‘The Dark Tower’ is too short and that leads to it feeling incredibly rushed, as if the filmmakers are ruthlessly moving from point a to point b without allowing the story or the mythology the time to breathe and develop, and that’s something that was badly needed.
‘The Dark Tower’ is likely to frustrate fans of the series as much as it’ll be incoherent to a new audience and it’s a disappointing result for a well loved and regarded book series that may well kill of any hopes of a more fruitful future on the big screen. The plan next is to expand the story into a TV series, and hopefully the longer form nature of that format will do wonders for the quality of this story.
Directed By: Nikolaj Arcel
Starring: Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor, Claudia Kim, Fran Kranz, Abbie Lee, Jackie Earle Haley, Katheryn Winnick, Dennis Haysbert, Michael Barbieri and Jose Zuniga