Review: Stephen King’s famously ‘unadaptable’ genre-mixing novel series get adapted by A Royal Affair’s director, Nikolaj Arcel, into a series of non-understandable events. Missing out the horror elements, missing out the Western elements, and opting for PG-friendly action, The Dark Tower might as well be titled ‘How to Adapt The Dark Tower and Miss Everything.’
There’s nothing special with the story. It apparently borrows elements from King’s novels, starting from the titular tower, the characters, and the conflicts. There’s the Dark Tower, which is said to be center of a multiverse; it is also said that only the mind of a child can destroy it. A dark sorcerer called Man In Black (Matthew McConaughey) seeks to destroy the tower to bring reign of terror. In doing so, he’s abducting children from all universes and exploiting their mind to blast the tower down. On the path of light, there’s a Gunslinger, Roland of Gilead (Idris Elba), a loner from a devastated world, who seeks for revenge. Standing between them is a child from Earth, Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), who is haunted by nightmare of the tower.
The straightforward plot lacks of exposition and comprehensive guides to the world of Dark Tower. Explanations regarding the tower’s existence are what The Dark Tower lacks most. The tower seems to be further away at the background; the hows and the whys the tower should be protected/destroyed are completely missing. The pace contributes to the lack of exposition as it goes into snoozefest in moments where the story needs to progress and goes into fast-forward mode when it needs exposition. To complete it, the emotions are stripped off from the story almost completely and the tones go unbalanced, making the story tone-deaf.
Characters come and go with or without particular impact. Thanks to McConaughey’s character penchant to wander around and make people stop breathing. If there’s a contest to tick all ‘one-dimensional villain’s trait’ lists, this Man In Black would have been an easy winner. The Oscar-winning actor gives a committed performance for a character, which badly needs rewriting than a chance to conquer the world. At the same time, the character’s under-written nature surprisingly creates a mysterious aura, which is emanated well by McConaughey.
Tom Taylor, who functions as the bridge between the good and evil, performs capably as a demented kid. However, he cannot perfectly show range of emotions the character should have delivered given his misfortunate life. Best thing is he can blend in quite well with the film’s best part: Idris Elba. Despite not being portrayed as vigorous as the character should have been, Elba could bring grittiness to the Gunslinger. Further, he infuses his performance with high-energetic action and straightforward lonesome portrayal.
Having McConaughey at good portion with Elba’s grittiness should have saved The Dark Tower from banality. Yet, this film is unable to portray the confrontation in a brutal, Stephen King-esque fashion. The clash of idealisms between the characters is down-right bland and feels like a generic good-vs-evil obligatory arc. Additionally, the ‘physical battle’ which should have been, at least, a gripping series of action bonanzas is disappointing and restricted. With the nature of those two characters, people would have imagined an inventive clash between magic and guns, which is not the case in The Dark Tower.
Call it a series of missing opportunities or an ambitious lack-of-ambition project, both might be suitable to describe this adaptation of The Dark Tower. Whatever it is, it’s hard to imagine Stephen King is disappointed by the end result.
The Dark Tower (2017)
Action, Adventure, Fantasy Directed by: Nikolaj Arcel Written by: Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, Anders Thomas Jensen, Nikolaj Arcel based on a novel by Stephen King Starred by: Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor Runtime: 95 mins Rated PG-13