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Movies Review: Dark Tower

There are other worlds then these with The Dark Tower. Image used from slash.com

The Man In Black fled across the desert, and The Gunslinger followed….

 

For the past thirty years Stephen King’s fantasy epic The Dark Tower has entertained and enchanted a legion of fans. Many consider it to be his magnum opus and as such for a number of years Hollywood has been trying to get projects of it off the ground be they film or TV. Now after all this time a film version has finally been released, a sequel to the final book which will lead into a TV series. But this ambitious effort has so far been met with hate and scorn. Are these simply over reactions or has The Dark Tower truly forgotten the face of its father? Let’s find out.

 

The story for The Dark Tower is very simplistic and this is both a good and bad thing. The simplicity harkens back to the very first novel The Gunslinger which had a very simple structure, in fact the film does follow some of the same plot points as The Gunslinger which helps bring the tale full circle from the final book. The simple nature is also somewhat merciful to newcomers who haven’t read the books as it could be something of a simple transition into the story as well as making for a decent jumping off point to lead into the show in the coming months. However, the simplicity also manages to be the film’s Achilles Heel. By being simple the story does come off as being rather uninteresting, it certainly isn’t bad but there isn’t’ anything truly remarkable about it either.  The very short running time and the unbelievable fast pace also make it so that very little seems to get accomplished; it just rushes through everything as quickly as it can. Heck, the one major plot point that it had to succeed in doing was creating a strong bond between Roland and Jake however that bond does not develop properly and as such when the two become close it doesn’t feel natural. And while some aspects are easy for newcomers to get into there are still many references to the books that many will not understand. Director and co-writer Nikolaj Arcel said the film would take elements from all the books and while it does it mainly takes elements from the last three books The Wolves of the Calla, The Song of Susannah and the final book. Newcomers aren’t going to know what Blue Heaven, the Taheen or The Tet Corporation are, they won’t understand the significance of the number 19 or the rose and they won’t keep their eyes peeled for Easter eggs, which this film is bountiful in and in all honesty is incredibly clever with its uses. Too bad it didn’t use the same effort on the story.

 

The characters for The Dark Tower are pretty good

 

Roland Deschain has always been one of King’s most interesting characters. Beginning as a Clint Eastwood “Man With No Name” type of character he grew into a man with depth who was constantly met with pain and tragedy. The film does a fine job of that initial Roland as he’s initially selfish and isolated for most of the film. His bond with Jake, an integral part of the books, is rather weak considering the film moves too quickly and doesn’t give them proper time to develop but even so their bond does have its moments it’s just a shame that it wasn’t developed better.

 

Jake Chambers is done well in The Dark Tower. It’s clear that this is a different Jake then from the books and as such the film has a little elbow room to change him. He’s a likable character and very sympathetic in his plight, however the film decides to make him a sort of chosen one character which is both an interesting development (again a different take while making a very good nod to The Shining) but the idea of Jake, who was an average Joe sucked into a colossal conflict and was thus relatable, becoming an all important world ending character seems just too much.

 

The Man In Black, Randall Flagg, The Walking Dude, He Who Walks Behind The Rows. Our antagonist for this film has gone by many different names throughout many different worlds throughout many different Stephen King novels but for today he is simply known to us as Walter. I’ve seen many people say that Walter is a boring, one dimensional villain with no depth and wasn’t memorable but I strongly disagree. Walter did very little in the books, in fact in the first book all he really does is run, while in The Dark Tower he’s an actual threat. He’s calm, cool and calculated showing immense power and cruelty and though a more simple villain he’s still nevertheless memorable and enjoyable.

 

Acting for The Dark Tower is very well done

 

Idris Elba does a fantastic job as Roland. Elba perfectly embodies the character, managing to give the impression of foreboding power and isolated anger. Elba also works well with his co-stars working well off of Tom Taylor and having a truly menacing time with McConaughey.

 

Tom Taylor does a fine job as Jake. Taylor does well by himself, important as the film focuses solely on him for long periods of time in the first act and as such was able to hold my attention for some time. For a child actor he is quite good, not once ever having any kind of annoying streak as is often seen.

 

Matthew McConaughey does an incredible job as Walter. McConaughey oozes with menace and villainy, pure evil dripping from his slow, intimidating drawl. It’s clear McConaughey is having an absolute ball with his performance has he makes Walter one of the more truly enjoyable and fun aspects of this film.

 

The effects for The Dark Tower are decent

 

It’s clear that this film has a more modest budget by looking at the effects. They aren’t bad by any stretch of the work but I’ve seen similar effects in films with half the budget of this one. The CG, the sets and even some of the costumes give this film more a young adult adaptation feeling, not surprising since some of the people who worked on this worked on other young adult adaptations, and while not bad they are pretty unimpressive. Still credit where credit is due the designs and effects of the Taheen are done quite well.

 

The Action for The Dark Tower is rather mixed

 

The action does come off as a bit of a disappointment to me. For the most part it just doesn’t feel like much energy put into any of it, with Roland mainly standing still as he shoots, monsters not moving with any kind of speed or weight and the choppy editing at times didn’t help. However, the final battle, and subsequently the last twenty minutes or so of the film, is very satisfying. The action at the end is well stylized, immensely exciting and a ton of fun. The initial battle is a bit on the short side but still well worth it and the fight between Roland and Walter is well done and makes for a fine conclusion to the film.

 

Final Thoughts: The Dark Tower is not a great film. It’s also not a bad film. The story is simple and rushes to the end, the effects aren’t as good as they should be and the action is weak for most of it. Still it’s not without merit. There are aspects of the story that are alright, the characters are mostly well done, the acting is strong, the finale is exciting and the references to the books as well as King’s other works is very clever and wonderful to see. As a starting off point for a film and TV franchise it’s pretty decent. I am looking forward to the show and honestly I would like to see this new story continued in another film and I hope to filmmakers and studio learn from their mistakes here. It can only get better from here on out.

 

Verdict: 2.5/5

About the Author

Good day to you, my name is Jonathan Gonzalez. For years I've loved movies and have been reviewing them for years, ever since I first saw Roger Ebert on Ebert and Roeper during my freshman year of high school for the first time. I am a graduate of Mercy College with a Bachelor's in Journalism and I have Asperger's Syndrome, something I am truly proud of.

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