Normally, a slick western-style gunslinger taking on a bad, bad guy in black would be a solid foundation for one cool movie. But for a blueprint as ambitious as ‘The Dark Tower’, the showdown between good and evil is crushed by a heap of nonsense. There’s simply too much plot stuffed inside this package – and what’s truly unfortunate is that the plot isn’t that great to begin with.
I’ve never read it, but instinct tells me that the book was probably better. Stephen King’s sci-fi-fantasy-horror (it’s hard to slap a label on this story, to be honest) always feels like it’s on a bit of a leash….in other words, ‘The Dark Tower’ panders to a P.G. crowd, despite that fact that its dark edge all but dictates it should be more terrifying than what we’re served. Again, King likely went for creeps on paper, it just never translates to the screen. The movie is just too tame.
As the story opens, we’re told that a Dark Tower lies “at the center of the universe”, and that it’s said “the mind of a child can bring it down”. And here I thought the Death Star had serious susceptibility issues in regards to an attack. Young Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), haunted by dreams of the tower since his father’s death, begins to see visions of the Man In Black (Matthew McConaughey), a sorcerer described as “worse” than the devil. In Jake’s dreams, children are gathered by the Man In Black and used to attack the tower, bring it down, all in order to let monsters in and ruin the universe….or something like that. But the Gunslinger (Idris Elba), the sworn enemy of the Man In Black, often appears to wage war and hold off the dark one.
It turns out that Jake has a ‘shine’ (in a bit of a nod to another King novel), and his strong psychic gift is very attractive to the Man In Black as he could use the child to fast track his plans to destroy the tower. And from there, the whole movie transitions into a game of cat-and-mouse with both parties on the run and the Gunslinger protecting Jake from the Man In Black. There are goons with fake skin (the reasoning must’ve got lost in the editing room), some big time shootouts (I really do enjoy how the Gunslinger re-loads his weapon, it’s very cool), and silly banter like, “Have a great Apocalypse!”. Um………you as well (?)
Elba emerges from it as the best of the bunch. Few performers scream ‘hero’ without even having to say a word, but this dude’s sheer presence is the stuff that franchises are built on. The news isn’t AS great for McConaughey. It’s not like he’s bad in ‘The Dark Tower’…..it’s more a case of bad casting. The guy clenches his jaw, swoops in to steal some poor victim’s soul….and all we can see is that surfer dude sporting dark, spikey hair. Oh, and a Texan accent doesn’t really fit a super villain – not with such chipper inflection, anyway.
There are eight books in the series, so let’s hope they get things right for the next round….’cause, while it’s not an outright horrible sit, ‘The Dark Tower’ just ain’t dark ENOUGH.