Kyle J. Steenblik

The Dark Tower is an Undeveloped and Mediocre Disappointment [Review]

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The Dark Tower
Directed by: Nikolaj Arcel
Screenplay by: Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, Anders Thomas Jensen, Nikolaj Arcel
Based on The Dark Tower by Stephen King
Starring: Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor, Claudia Kim, Fran Kranz, Abbey Lee, Jackie Earle Haley
Running time 95 minutes
Rated PG-13 for thematic material including sequences of gun violence and action.

2 1/2 stars out of 5Roland 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.

As a disclaimer, I have never read the books, but I am aware of them and the expansive nature of the story they contain. I have had the book series described enough that I feel I have a basic understanding of their structure, while I know very little about the plot. That said I found The Dark Tower film so undeveloped that it cannot be called a direct adaptation of the books, but a new story based upon the series of novels.

While the native of The Dark Tower film was not in and of itself difficult to follow, it didn’t make much sense as the events didn’t seem to have strong logical connections. Each action only happened because the script said it did, not because there was a logical cause or motive. I understood what happened, but I want to know why it happened, I feel cheated out of a good story, I can only imagine how fans of the books feel. Mystery and suspense operate quite differently in books and film. In a book you can easily withhold information to be revealed throughout the story. In a film, this feels disingenuous and creates a mystery for mystery’s sake feeling.

To say this film is a disappointment is not to say it is unwatchable, or even bad. There is quite a lot that is not only visually engaging, but captivating. The problem is there is not enough of it. A handful of exciting action sequences cannot save a film if that action is not properly motivated, or if you feel so disconnected from the characters that you can’t care about them. The cast did a fantastic job delivery performances that might have saved the film, unfortunately what they delivered turned out to be hollow and superficial, even if it was executed and delivered beautifully.
No matter how you add it up the experience The Dark Tower delivers is disappointing on almost every level. Primarily because it clearly had the potential to be an epic fantasy saga. Instead audiences have a 95 minute preview for an impotent franchise that will never be. What is worse is those of us that didn’t downright hate the film have next to nothing to use to defend the filmmakers other than bare minimum competency displayed by not delivering a complete train-wreck.

Director Nikolaj Arcel was handed one of the most anticipated titles in recent memory, a film that could have very easily catapulted him into a pantheon of great filmmakers. Instead he will be viewed as an average director until he manages to blow an audience away at an independent film festival. I suspect that we will, unfortunately, not hear from Arcel in the U.S. for some time. Fortunately for movie going audiences there is a plethora of other great films on which to spend their time in the theatre.

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