Movie Reviews: 'The Dark Tower'

I've been hearing about plans to adapt Stephen King's The Dark Tower series for about 10 years, and nothing's really come out of these talks until today. It's been in the hands of J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof, and Ron Howard, before Danish filmmaker Nikolaj Arcel finally landed the director's chair. It's been shopped around at both Universal and Warner Bros., until Sony Pictures acquired the project in April of 2015. Aside from Baby Driver and Spider-Man Homecoming, 2017 has not been kind to Sony, but let's see if they can win over some new fans in The Dark Tower.

Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), the last Gunslinger, is locked in an eternal battle with Walter O'Dim (Matthew McConaughey), also known as the Man in Black. The Gunslinger must prevent the Man in Black from toppling the Dark Tower, the key that holds the universe together. With the fate of worlds at stake, two men collide in the ultimate battle between good and evil.

My feelings about this movie are complicated. On the one hand, it's a fairly entertaining stand alone action/adventure film, but fans of the Dark Tower book series are not going to be happy.

Starting things off with the positives, I love the cast. Regardless of the source material, any movie that stars Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey demands my attention opening night. Full disclosure, I've never read the source material, so I have no idea how close their portrayals are to their respective characters. All I can judge and what I saw on screen, and what I saw was pretty damn cool. McConaughey gives a very subdued, yet very chilling performance as the Man in Black, this universe's version of the devil. It's fun seeing him playing a villain, which honestly isn't too far off from some of his other roles. As for Idris Elba, he was born to play the hero, and a character like Roland fits him like a glove. This film introduces the world to Tom Taylor, who's making his debut playing Jake Chambers. There is certainly room for improvement, but I see potential in this kid.

The general premise is simple, yet effective. It's a standard good verses evil narrative that we've seen time and time again, and that's perfectly okay. I'd be a little more forgiving if this was a stand alone movie, since the story is only there to move our characters from point A to point B, and to provide context for the action scenes, which are pretty awesome.
This is director Nikolaj Arcel's Hollywood feature debut, and I could see him carving out a solid career within the action genre. If Warner Bros. is still looking for a director for Suicide Squad 2, I'd be more than willing to give him a shot.

As I've said before, this movie is just fine as a stand alone film, but therein lies the fundamental problem: Sony did not intend to make a stand alone film. The Dark Tower franchise has a rich mythology, spawning 9 books and over dozens of graphic novels published by Marvel Comics. So why the hell then is this movie set after the events of the source material? Do they not realize that essentially skipped over the entire appeal of this universe? That's like if Warner Brothers were to adapt the Harry Potter franchise, but instead of starting with the Sorcerer's Stone, they begin with The Cursed Child.

As far the runtime is concerned, once again, for any other movie this wouldn't be a problem. But for The Dark Tower, 95 minutes makes the plot feel like it's rushing to the finish line. You hardly get the time to explore the universe, nor do we get to really know the characters beyond what the plot tells them to do. Fortunately there are a couple of fun Stephen King easter eggs sprinkled throughout the film, but they could have done so much more with the idea of King's multiverse.

Finally, because I do like to end on a positive, I'll never not enjoy JunkieXL's musical contributions. It's a shame he's no longer composing Justice League, but at least he gets to do what he does best in this film, which is to add that extra punctuation to action scenes, making them feel larger than life.

6/10 

I can't really call The Dark Tower a disappointment, only because I was never quite attached enough to the source material to build up high expectations. With that said, I want this movie to succeed, so we can explore more of Stephen King's Multiverse. This cast and the source material are too good to waste on this one feature film.

Now I want to hear from you guys. Have you seen The Dark Tower, and if so what did you think? Also, how do you feel about an HBO series based on this source material? Drop your thoughts in the comments below. As always, thanks for stopping by EastCoastMovieGuys!

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