2017 in Cinema:
The Dark Tower, 2017
Directed by: Nikolaj Arcel
Starring: Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor, Claudia Kim, Fran Kranz, Abbey Lee, Jackie Earle Haley
Based on Stephen King’s best-selling The Dark Tower series (the first of which, The Gunslinger, is reviewed here), The Dark Tower sees Roland, the Gunslinger (Idris Elba, Molly’s Game) on his search for Walter, the man in black (Matthew McConaughey). While that’s happening on mid-world, another world separate to ours, over on earth a young boy, Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), has visions of the Dark Tower, the Gunslinger, the man in black and the experiments he’s performing on children (to use their hidden psychic powers to destroy the Dark Tower, thus bringing down the barrier blocking the two worlds from the demons on the outside).
Not every Stephen King adaptation can be a Misery, Shawshank Redemption or a Carrie, sometimes they turn out like a Children of the Corn or a Cell. The Dark Tower, unfortunately, falls into the latter’s category. Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey play their roles fine (Tom Taylor isn’t terrible, but he won’t be winning any awards for this), but unfortunately the writing for them didn’t fully build up their characters. McConaughey’s man in black only briefly comes across as terrifying, which is a shame considering his sorcerer’s abilities, and Roland’s Gunslinger doesn’t embrace his full potential.
While I wasn’t the biggest fan of The Gunslinger, one of its upsides was the brief moments where Roland, who lives in a world similar to ours but much, much more primitive, is confused by Jake’s comments about earth’s items. In The Dark Tower they come to earth and these moments are pretty poor, and Roland doesn’t seem as dumb-struck with earth’s behaviour (he’s never seen a vehicle before yet gets on a bus without any confusion). It felt like a missed opportunity.
It wasn’t all bad, though. The action scenes are pretty decent, and the complete contrast between earth and mid-world (quickly transitioning from a primitive world without much technology to the bustling cities of New York City) is presented very well. And, as mentioned, Idris Elba acts the Gunslinger role very well, going from tough emotionless fighter to confused parent-esque protector in a city he’s an alien in. And the brief moments where the man in black is showing off his powers are striking and emotional (one scene in particular shows his cruelness).
Prior to this film’s release there was a lot of uproar about its time limit (being only 90 minutes), and it shows from watching it. The characters weren’t fleshed out enough and the final battle scene between Roland and the man in black didn’t feel as major as it should have been, and this is probably due to its time restraint. It’s a fine line between crammed 90-minutes and boring 120-minutes but a better screenplay and this film would have worked wonders at 120 minutes.
This won’t be talked about as one of Stephen King’s greatest movie-adaptations of his work, but it certainly isn’t the worst. It’s action-packed non-stop from start-to-finish (due to its time-limit), and the worlds look wonderful in comparison. It just needed a better script, with more character development, and an extra 15-30 minutes would really have helped with this. A fine movie, but nothing special.
Plot: * * Acting: * * * Writing: * * Presentation: * * *