The Dark Tower (2017)

Upon leaving the cinema after seeing The Dark Tower, my first question was this: “How did this get released into theaters in this condition?” The Dark Tower is a hilariously bad disaster, the type of film that has the makings of an epic but after being edited down to 95 minutes is barely coherent. It’s almost all exposition about things we don’t care about, it has a couple of banal action sequences, and it centers on an annoying kid. It’s this year’s The Last Airbender.

Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) is our annoying kid. He’s 11 and has prophetic dreams about a Dark Tower and a Gunslinger and a Man in Black. He’s “weird” because of this. As it turns out, all of those things exist, and he’s soon transported into a different part of the universe in which the Gunslinger (Idris Elba) does battle with the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) over a Dark Tower, which keeps the entire universe safe from the “Darkness” that lies await outside it. If you want more than that, you’d have to read the books. The movie has a lot of exposition but it amounts to very, very little.

The problem here is that the filmmakers have eight books, written by Stephen King, from which to draw, but decide instead to make one of the most basic stories possible—and then fill it with references to a more interesting back story and characters that they’ve apparently decided will be expanded upon in a planned television series. The movie is just here to introduce this property to us. It does a bad job. Nothing here is interesting enough to make me want to watch the show.

That’s one of the first rules of storytelling, though, isn’t it? You have to hook your audience. The Dark Tower lulls us to sleep, and does it pretty early on. It takes so long to get going that by the time we’re finally ready for Jake and the Gunslinger to take on the Man in Black, the movie’s almost over—and we have to do a halfhearted Damsel in Distress storyline. I don’t know how anyone looked at this movie, in its present state, and thought that it would entertain.

The Dark Tower is a boring, thinly plotted movie that consists of 90% exposition and 10% bad action scenes.

Maybe they saw Matthew McConaughey chew the scenery in every scene and thought that was fun. Typically, it would be. Here, McConaughey’s lines are so stupid—and not fun-stupid, but stupid-stupid—that it’s hard to have fun with him. Idris Elba puts more effort into the role than the movie deserves but he’s not given much of a character to work with and he’s pushed into a supporting role for Tom Taylor’s Jake. Jake is also a bland character, but Taylor isn’t a strong actor and can’t make him anything more than an annoyance. And don’t even get me started on his “American” accent, which is so bad that it was noticeable in the trailer.

I’ll give you an example of the type of characterization that The Dark Tower has. Both Jake and the Gunslinger miss their fathers. The Gunslinger’s mantra is about not forgetting the face of one’s father. And … that’s almost all there is to both of them. You can’t make a movie with characters this bland and expect us to care about their quest. I’m not saying I was actively rooting for the villain to destroy the Tower and have evil enter all of the worlds, but at least then something would have happened. Most of the movie has characters explaining the world and its rules, and it forgets to give us something in which to invest. Or, at least, provide some decent action.

That’s probably the most disappointing thing about The Dark Tower. Its action is as bland and dull as the rest of the production. Even the “best” scene, which sees the Gunslinger take out a bunch of henchmen, only comes across as Idris Elba shooting a gun in random directions and killing endless generic henchmen. All but the climactic action scene, which is boring and rushed, feel this way. They could have at least gone in a campy direction to not make watching this movie feel like such a slog.

The Dark Tower is a boring, thinly plotted movie that consists of 90% exposition and 10% bad action scenes. A couple of good actors are wasted, a bad child actor is forced down our throats, characters are too shallow to care about, poor special effects are frequently present, and the whole thing is such a mess that it makes you wonder if a much longer cut was planned, deemed too dense or confusing, and this hacked-up 95-minute version was released in hopes of just making back some of the money. The Dark Tower is awful.

Conclusion: The Dark Tower is just so awful.

Recommendation: Even—and perhaps especially—if you’re a fan of the books, The Dark Tower is not worth seeing.

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