Directed By: Nikolaj Arcel
Written By: Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, Anders Thomas Jensen, and Nikolaj Arcel (so many writers…a wonder the script was a blur right?) Based on the The Dark Tower series by Stephen King
I’m one of those dedicated readers who climbed the tower all the way to the top and saw what was through the doorway of fate for Roland of Gilead. So I knew better than to expect too much from this movie. I mean for starters it seems a little baffling for several thousand pages to be condensed into an hour and a half movie. Beyond that there is just no way this story was ever going to translate to the screen the way we wanted it to. Considering all of that from the beginning puts this film in an interesting perspective. So when I received this movie as a Christmas present I was delighted to add it to the collection.
I love Idris Elba, I mean who doesn’t think Stringer Bell is the shit right? He’s a cool guy and I think he looks really good on paper but in this movie he seems like he doesn’t really know what to do with the character. In this movie he delivers one of the worst lines I have ever heard. Shortly after Jake discovers his mother has been killed the two find themselves sitting on a dock and Roland looks to Jake and says “I will kill him” or something to that effect. It’s a poorly written and poorly delivered line that just doesn’t hit the spot. I don’t think Idris Elba ever bothered to read the books and only went by the convoluted and regularly rewritten script. He has several moments in this one that make it worth it, but overall I just don’t think his heart was in it. I did think he looked cool as the gunslinger and I didn’t mind the race bending.
Matthew McConaughey on the other hand was simply overplaying his part. I do get the feeling that McConaughey read the books and got really invested into the part but I think he was over doing it nonetheless. There are better ways to convey this type of bad guy and I don’t think McConaughey pulled it off at all. He’s too super powered as a magician that likes to make people stop breathing with the oh so subtle phrase of “Stop breathing.” Walter Paddock, Walter O Dim, The Man in Black are all incarnations of Randall Flagg and McConaughey had nothing on Jamey Sheridan. Yes, I’m comparing McConaughey to the television adaptation of The Stand and determining he sucked at this part.
I did think that Tom Taylor was fantastic in the part of Jake and probably gave the strongest performance among this film of giants. It’s sad that in a film with two such well known leads that the best performance is giving by the kid with barely any acting credits to his name. I don’t know much about this kid but looking over his IMDB page shows he came from television and I hope the future is bright for him. This movie certainly isn’t going to get his foot in the door to bigger parts but I think he showed a lot of promise in the role.
What I do like about this movie is that I feel like it is full on Stephen King. I am a big fan of King and noticed many easter eggs referencing the universe he has created in this writing. Off the top of my head I remember references to Cujo, It, and the Shining among others. There are probably tons more that I either didn’t notice or forgot to mention. I love Stephen King and the interesting ways his books manage to tie all together. I can’t claim to be a mega reader who has read all of his books but I have read many and more than most.
With the way Stephen King sells books it’s understandable why filmmakers would want to develop any of his works into featured films but I’m at a loss on what they were thinking when it came to this series. There are just so many problems in adapting it. First of all there are seven books in the series, eight if you count Wind Through the Keyhole, which is a lot for any film to take on. Where do you even start? You can’t really start with The Gunslinger because that book is barely readable much less adaptable. Had King not been so persistent this series would have never got off the ground. The second book, The Drawing of Three, is far and away superior to the first book in every way but it is so out there that I couldn’t imagine how someone would adapt it. When you go on from there it only gets weirder with a talking train, a really long flashback, then all hell breaks loose with worlds colliding. It just doesn’t translate into a film and they were never going to get it right in a short film at that.
What I don’t understand is how they approached this. If you aren’t franchise building with a property like this I don’t know what the point is and they obviously didn’t build this film for sequels. Killing off the main antagonist in the first film for example leaves little to build on and where are all the other characters besides Roland and Jake? If they were going to bring this story to the big screen they needed Eddie Dean at the very least, and I for one really would have liked to see Oy. The Dark Tower series is a rich and fantastic story but it’s really really weird and it just doesn’t make sense to adapt it with one film. You’re only going to disappoint people like me and you certainly aren’t going to make new fans with a movie that makes little sense to those who didn’t read the story.
I watched a YouTube video recently where the commentator listed this as one of the worst films of the year, and I can’t really say she was wrong. I found things that I liked about it but I was being generously optimistic in doing so. I liked the references to King’s other work and some of the action was satisfying enough. In the action I liked that they came up with all those nifty reloading tricks instead of having Roland twirl his gun like a gunslinger in a western. I always find it silly for people to twirl and shoot at targets in western movies. These shenanigans just seem unnecessary and foolish. A real badass doesn’t need to show off with tricks. Roland isn’t showing off his skill in this movie we simply see it through the action of him doing it.
If you made that long and arduous journey to the top of the tower like I did I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts on the film. I can’t say I loved this movie by any means but I honestly can’t say I hated it either. I found enough I enjoyed to add it to the collection but my bias is well noted here. I came into it with low enough expectations to avoid utter disappointment and found things worth wild. If you’re willing to do that then I think this movie might be worth your time. If you are unfamiliar with The Dark Tower or Stephen King then don’t even bother because it definitely isn’t worth your time.