|Source: Sony Pictures|
*This Review May Contain Spoilers*
The Dark Tower is a long awaited adaptation of the famous book series from author Stephen King. The film stars Matthew McConaughey as "The Man in Black and Idris Elba as Roland Deschain, a.k.a. "The Gunslinger". The film is a fun and somewhat entertaining take on the book series but certainly limits its self due to its rating and intended target audience.
The story tells of an immense, dark tower that serves a barrier between our world and another parallel world that is a desolate, post-apocalyptic wasteland where people fight to survive and fear The Man in Black, an evil person who is on a never ending mission to destroy the tower so that the forces of evil take control of our world in addition to the wasteland he knows rules over. Set out among the wasteland are The Gunslingers, a group of brave men who have sworn to protect the innocent citizens of the land. As the battle of good and evil continues we learn that there are children in our world who have the ability to "shine", or to have visions of the alternate world that lies on the other side of the tower. If the Man in Black can find one child whose abilities are so powerful than he can use those abilities to destroy the tower and succeed with this deadly quest. For years he searches high and low with no success until one day a boy with tremendous abilities finds a way to enter the alternate world that he has envisioned in his mind for so many years. He suddenly finds himself in the land where the Man in Black rules supreme- and the only person who maybe able to save him is one of the only remaining Gunslingers left alive. Can Roland save the boy, and our world, from utter destruction or will the Man in Black finally be free to conquer with unlimited power? (You'll need to check it out to find the answers)
This film presents a fun take on the classic adage of good versus evil but is shockingly tame for a tale told by Stephen King. Even though King has famously given us some moving, uplifting, and heartwarming stories (The Shawshank Redemption, Stand By Me, & Hearts in Atlantis stand out), his real strength has always delivered stories that are intense, suspenseful, and thrilling. With the exception of a few sequences that highlight the villainy of The Man in Black the film did not bring any real suspense that a viewer may have expected. Most of the events unfolded as you would expect them to and there really is never a point where our protagonist, the gifted boy named Jake Chambers (played by young Tom Taylor), or The Gunslinger are in a moment of true peril. The overall feel of the film is monotone which is a shame since there are a few good qualities that the movie has to offer.
First and foremost is the great casting. Elba and McConaughey are both great in their respective roles and it's disappointing to see that their talents are shockingly limited by what they are given to work with. The films musical score, composed by Tom Holkenborg, also deserves honorable mention. The other very appealing gem in this film is Director Nikolaj Arcel's clever choice to add little nods to other Stephen King tales throughout the film. Right out of the gate we know that the children's' ability to "shine" is a reference to King's classic "The Shining" and at one point in the film we see Jake with some the toys in his room, most notably a die cast 1958 Plymouth Fury car, an exact replica of "Christine", another King classic. These little nods were not only clever but well placed in the film so that they did not become a distraction to the scene. These small pieces definitely help keep your interest to watch in spite of the lack of drive that the movie is missing.
If I were to summarize The Dark Tower as simply as I could, I would say it was "ok". It was not a terrible movie by any stretch, but also was not very memorable- I would even say that this movie serves as a prime example of what some choose to call "popcorn fare". The movie has some good action scenes, some flashy special effects, and some good acting from the leading actors as previously mentioned. But that is about all this film has to offer on the plus side. It is a film that was entertaining to see once but not a film I would have interest in catching when its released digitally or on DVD. I cannot help but suspect that there was potential to do a lot more with this film, and this story, considering that the original novels were an eight part series which means there was a lot of material to work with. Sadly it feels like there was a greater onus to make this more family friendly with a PG-13 rating and a tone that is tame in comparison to other films adapted from Stephen King novels. There is an old expression that says "too much of anything can sometimes be no good for you"- that seems to be the case here when it comes to dialing down the intensity of the story and the concern of making it light enough for family viewing. In closing I would say this- if you are intrigued by the previews for this film and you take the time to see it, I'm sure you will at least enjoy it. But if you don't decide to invest the time, it would not be the worst choice. Middle of the road for me with this one.
Reel Rating (Out of A Possible Four):