Over-simplified, lacking cohesiveness – an average movie and terrible adaptation.
Where Stephen King’s eight book series gives some great and deep material for cinematic adaptation, Nikolaj Arcel’s attempt at bringing The Dark Tower to the big screen fails to magnify the story by oversimplifying it.
The plot sees Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) plagued with nightmares about a dark place run by the Man In Black (Matthew McConaughey), whose sole purpose is to take down the titular ‘Dark Tower’. On learning that his dreams are real, he ignores his mother’s worries about his mental health to track down the heroic Gunslinger, Roland (Idris Elba). The storyline starts up with great sci-fi vibes and some gravity to its backstory. However, the blunt pace and transitions between scenes demonstrates Hollywood’s need to wrap the story up in an hour and a half without concern of making it a terrible cliché.
Indeed, some scenes are not very well explained. Could this be a hint that there will be a second movie, or just lack of thoroughness? There is no explanation as to what the monsters in the woods are, or to where exactly the children are taken, or even why Roland wonder if animals still talk on earth – the bounding of the two protagonists both lost their cherish ones can be seen from miles away.
Nevertheless, Idris Elba portrays an impressively credible Roland. His heroism is well infused with a tortured mind, made terrifying by the death he’s caused on the ones around him; alongside him, Tom Taylor epitomises the ‘weird kiddo’ with a solid performance. Yet, they are the only ones playing consistent characters, with the others underdeveloped and lacking depth. The Man In Black is a cliché villain, rooting for the apocalypse and having no remorse whatsoever at kidnapping children and killing them. Far from three dimensional.
Some lines between Roland and Jake, added with Roland’s visit to Earth, infuse humour into the plot, but it is not sufficient to balance the senseless action of the plot. It is true that Roland’s abilities as a Gunslinger are memorable, but the finished conflict sequences are of the standard of a cheap action movie. Purely the ease with which The Man In Black is vanquished – despite his ability to control people’s minds, to kill people with a word and act faster than superheroes – lose The Dark Tower its credibility.
Instead, the studios should have explored the more gory stuff that can be found in King’s books, rather than adapting it as family friendly and stripping the story from its core elements, namely its complexness. The Dark Tower could have been incredible, but once again Hollywood has failed its audience and every element of the film could be improved, perhaps except the casting of big name actors. By making it “blockbuster”, they’ve succeeded in creating a pitiful adaptation out of a narrative gold mine.
The Dark Tower is distributed in the UK by Columbia Pictures. Certificate 12A.