By Andrew Jenck
The films I’ve reviewed haven’t warranted much criticizing and have been, at worst, tolerable…until now. The Dark Tower is a dull, cheap-looking, insignificant film that at times looks and feels more like a pilot to a TV series; which it kind of is. Sony Pictures planned to have both a sequel and a TV series to follow up, but trust me; you won’t want to see any of those if you see this film, assuming you can still remember anything from this forgettable snore-fest.
I haven’t read the series of novels by Stephen King that this film is based on, so I can’t judge it as an adaption. As I understand it, the studio decided to cram eight books of mythology into a ninety minute runtime, which would explain why everything feels so undercooked. Granted, this makes sense so newcomers like me will be able to follow along, though that might be more due to how overly simplified the whole thing is. That’s another thing: whatever source material it has, the film presents it in the broadest sense possible. The whole story is about a psychic boy who befriends a worn mercenary as they try to stop The Man in Black from destroying a building that holds the universe together. That’s it. There’s no depth, no nuance, no underlying theme; it’s as basic an action movie as you could get.
Somehow Sony was able to take the concept of gun-slinging knights protecting multiple dimensions from demonic monsters into such a dull film to the point that the theaters should give you a bingo card for all the tropes it uses. You’ve got a kid dealing with a step father, a vengeful mercenary, an apocalyptic world, uninspired demon creatures, fish out of water scenarios, dead daddies, etc. The film also limits itself by only showing two of the dimensions: regular New York City and a plain desert. These clichés wouldn’t be so tiresome had there been something more to them, as they can be used as great story devices. The problem is there’s nothing to film. Reshoots took place in response to poor screen tests, and while it’s not as obvious as other films, it would explain why the editing is so abrupt and scenes just come and go.
Idris Elba as the Gunslinger is fine, I suppose, giving what you’d expect to the role, but only being defined by his vengeance and tragic back story. Matthew McConaughey as the Man in Black is enjoyable enough, if only because it is somewhat humorous when a demonic lord talks with a light-hearted, southern accent. The material is pleading for something gory and darker but instead just has the most typical, PG-13 action, save for some moments which are conveniently in the trailers. The only interesting concept is that the Man in Black tells the Gunslinger that it doesn’t matter who wins as the universe will eventually come to an end and be consumed by darkness. Essentially, their fight seems futile but the Gunslinger realizes a new beginning from the boy and regains his will to fight. Unfortunately, this is introduced towards the end of the film, and I’ve seen this material done to far greater effects (see Logan).
Being only ninety minutes, The Dark Tower wasn’t entirely tedious but man, did I feel every one of those ninety minutes. Apparently, the TV show is supposed to flesh out the mythology to a greater extent and even have an R-rated sequel, but these projects seem unlikely due to its poor box office returns. Guess they should’ve had something interesting for the first go-around before planning a franchise. It will leave newcomers little to care about, and fans of the books insulted for the little effort put into it. It doesn’t aim for your pleasure. Those that aim for your pleasure are entertaining. This aims for your wallets.