Ordinary rather than extraordinary and average rather than epic, the much-anticipated The Dark Tower feature film suffers from a case of the mehs. (‘Meh’ was the word that immediately sprang to mind following the screening.) Those looking for an adrenaline-charged action film that’ll knock your socks off will be sorely disappointed in this adaptation of Stephen King’s fantasy book series. Neither Idris Elba nor Matthew McConaughey can save this flat adaptation from being utterly forgettable.
Directed by A Royal Affair’s Nikolaj Arcel, The Dark Tower introduces Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), a socially awkward teen who suffers from recurring visions of a tower and two strange men. He believes the earthquakes currently rocking New York City have something to do with the tower, and obsessively draws everything he sees in his dreams. When his mom (Katheryn Winnick) and her obnoxious boyfriend (Nicholas Pauling) decide to send him to a clinic to be examined, he quickly determines the people who’ve come to take him away are part of the group bent on destroying the mysterious tower.
Jake travels through a portal to another dimension where he meets Roland the Gunslinger (Elba) whose sole motivation is to exact revenge on the powerful sorcerer known as the Man in Black, real name: Walter (McConaughey). Jake, however, is more concerned about saving the universe by finding a way to keep Walter from toppling the tower. And, as it turns out, his visions mark him as a powerful psychic.
The plot is relatively straightforward and the line between good and evil is clearly delineated. Elba dresses like the hero of a Western while McConaughey’s costumes pivot toward sleazy lounge singer stylings, designating him the villain.
The creatures that inhabit Walter’s dimension are meant to frightening but are more low-budget TV series sci-fi than major theatrical release-worthy. In fact, none of the special effects in The Dark Tower are all that special. The visuals are as average as the plot, although it is fun to find the not-so-hidden Stephen King references planted throughout the sets.
Even with the relatively small amount of dialogue he’s given, Idris Elba’s performance is the best thing about The Dark Tower. Elba and Taylor form a believable mentor/student relationship, but it’s not enough to spur strong feelings about continuing to share this journey with the pair.
A TV series is in the works that will further delve into the world Stephen King created in his book series. Glen Mazzara, who did an outstanding job with the canceled-too-soon A&E series, Damien, has signed on to write and serve as showrunner on the project. King’s work is better suited to a series, and fans who are disappointed by 2017’s The Dark Tower 90-minute film will likely be better served by Mazzara’s take on King’s creation.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material including sequences of gun violence and action
Release Date: August 4, 2017