‘The Dark Tower’ proves a missed opportunity

Andrew Shermoen

The road to cinematic hell is paved with good intentions.

Two high calibre actors, a script penned by the man who wrote “A Beautiful Mind” and Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” cult classic book series as source material, this should have been absolute home run. So what in the world went wrong?

Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) is a young boy experiencing terrifying nightmares every night that coincide with record-setting earthquakes. In his dreams, a tower stretches beyond the clouds which a Man in Black (McConaughey) seeks to destroy with the aid of magically minded children. Jake travels to this alternate dimension where he meets Roland (Idris Elba), a gunslinger whose past tragedies have been directly influenced by The Man in Black. Roland and Jake quest to stop the Man in Black once and for all from destroying the Tower that protects both of their worlds.

“The Dark Tower” is a hodge-podge of half realized ideas that make no sense. The Man in Black’s magic allows him to stop people from breathing, but Jake and Roland are immune to this magic for undefined reasons, and he often uses other roundabout ways of killing enemies when inhalation would have been the easier choice. The Man in Black’s generic minions wear fake skins to appear as humans, and the only way to identify them is if the seams break apart, which happens only when it is most convenient for the plot.

One of the most interesting elements of King’s book series is that as the narrative unfolds you discover that the books give evidence that every single one of King’s novels is connected in the same ever-expanding universe. The frustrating thing about how the film adaptation handles this is with quick references to films like “It” and “The Shining” without ever expanding upon them in a meaningful way. It boils down to a cool idea that falls apart due to lazy writing.

This movie doesn’t even save itself by playing to its established fanbase. There are several beloved book elements that are completely excluded from the movie, making it both unenjoyable to any possible viewer, but also confusing when it comes time to explain important plot points and mythos. The writing as whole if just bad and completely lacking in logic. Jake’s therapist literally tells him he is crazy for being afraid of these apocalyptic earthquakes. It is painful to listen to.

Add onto this the fact that McConaughey’s performance is abysmal, swapping believability and charisma for a cartoon villain who uses magic to manipulate children into hating their mothers like it’s as much of his daily routine as eating his vitamins. On the opposite side of the spectrum is Taylor, the poorly conceived star of the film, as his performance of Jake is devoid of any likeability or personality. His character’s constant whining makes him an insufferable main protagonist at best.

The only saving grace of the film is Elba’s Roland Deschain, who exudes personality as he is apt to do in almost all of his films and shows. Sure, his character is nothing special, he’s just a generic knight character who fights with guns instead of a sword, but his path and tragic backstory do make his story somewhat compelling compared to the rest of the film’s banal and contrived storyline. He also delivers a bulk of the action in this film, which is competently done, albeit a little generic except for a few distinct elements like Roland’s brandishing and shooting of his guns as well as his unique ways of reloading his twin revolvers. Throwing bullets in the air and then swinging his piece to catch them in the cylinder is a really unique and interesting effect. Still, that doesn’t make up for the fact that many of the special effects look cheap and obviously fake.

All in all, “The Dark Tower” is a poorly conceived mess that the studios should have given up on trying to create long ago. It’s very much like The Man in Black’s goons: attempting to wear a fake suit to disguise itself as a good film, when in reality its seams are falling apart. It’s nothing more than a cheap, badly done adaptation unworthy of its source material.

Rating: .5/5 stars