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August 4, 2017

The Dark Tower Collapses Under Weight of Confusion

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Written by: Byron D. Zero
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Book-to-movie fantasy adaptations are a time-honored tradition. In the past two decades with the success of franchises like The Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter, it’s only natural that other studios would want some of that action. However it has created a very popular subgenre of stories geared at the 25-and-under crowd, which as a whole has not seen a huge amount of success — with the exception of the Hunger Games franchise. With studios scooping literary IPs like it’s free ice cream day, I suppose it was only natural that one of Stephen King’s most revered series would get the cinematic treatment. But does Hollywood have what it takes to adapt an eight-book series? You’ll find the answer if you follow the beam, this is The Dark Tower.

The Dark Tower is the story of Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), an 11-year-old adventure seeker who discovers clues about another dimension called Mid-World. Upon following the mystery, he is spirited away to Mid-World where he encounters a Gunslinger, Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), who is on a quest to reach the “Dark Tower” that resides in End-World and reach the nexus point between time and space that he hopes will save all existence from extinction. But with unholy monsters and a vicious sorcerer named Walter O’Dim, also known as the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) hot on their trail, the unlikely duo find that their quest may be more difficult than they realize.

A man with two hogleg revolvers walking the streets of NY, alive? Must be a fantasy movie.

A man with two hogleg revolvers walking the streets of NY, alive? Must be a fantasy movie.

This one left me with a lot of questions, number one being “what did I just watch?” There seemed to be no sense of clarity in the movie’s overall narrative; the trailers would have you believe that is a story of the ultimate battle of good and evil, and if you get that impression prepare for a landslide of disappointment.

The Dark Tower has such an amazing acting talent that it squanders. Idris Elba was made for the stoic badass that is Roland, and when I heard Matthew McConaughey was cast as the Man in Black, I was ecstatic. Unfortunately both actors are underutilized. The two are relegated to side characters, as we are forced to trudge through Jake Chambers’ mundane life for most of the first act. Not to discredit Tom Taylor as an actor, because he did the best he could with this sow’s ear of a script, he was just okay. And I almost forgot about Jackie Earle Haley — he was in it as well and he played second fiddle to our other second fiddles. The focus on Jake was little more than a shameless Young Adult audience cash grab, and the ad campaign is little more than a deception. Honestly it is an offense to the fans, who come expecting to have the mythos of this series treated with care. In addition it will likely alienate the uninitiated.

Lighting was a mess here — there was scene where Roland was attacked by some sort of demon, but I couldn’t tell you for the life of me what it looked like because the animators were attempting to make it look like because the setting was just too dark.

Director Nikolaj Arcel managed to replicate the whole of Mid-World from the books flawlessly. If there is anything to take away from this flick it’s the landscapes and costuming, Arcel definitely paints a pretty picture.

The same cannot be said for the music — clearly someone took the spaghetti western parallel from the books a bit too far, and composed a most generic and forgettable score.

This was my first time going into one of these types of films which a heavy amount of knowledge of the source material, and I tried very hard not to compare it to the books. Sadly, that mindset did me no favors, as many in the audience who had never read the books stated that the plot (or lack thereof) made no sense. And that is a disservice to King’s writing style, as one his of greatest strengths as a writer is world building. He delves into the psyche of every character that is essential to the respective plot, not just the protagonist.

The Dark Tower (Sony,  PG-13) directed by Nikolaj Arcel has forgotten the face of its father, and I give it a 2 out of 5.

About the Author

Byron D. Zero



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