If you only see one Stephen King adaptation on the big screen this summer… maybe wait for IT. First to arrive, The Dark Tower – based on an epic series of eight King novels – spans science fiction, fantasy, horror and Western. It just doesn’t do any of them particularly well, and for the most part is simply rather dull.
Nikolaj Arcel’s film starts with the kind of lazy exposition which unfortunately continues: text against a black screen telling the audience what the Dark Tower is and why it’s important. Before long, we also have the trope of the seemingly crazy homeless man telling teenage protagonist Jake (Tom Taylor) what the villain’s plans are. Taylor himself is decent enough, playing the clichéd misunderstood and troubled kid who’s quick to anger.
But the big draws here are of course Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey, the latter in a rare role as a bad guy. Sadly, the part seems to stifle McConaughey’s natural charisma, as he stomps around looking moody and enacting a plan to destroy the Tower that is never fully explained. Elba fares much better, effortlessly badass as “Gunslinger” Roland but also bringing pathos to his tortured character.
The film’s biggest problem is that it just never really excites, or develops its multi-world universe enough despite some interesting ideas. It comes to life a little with some fish-out-of-water comedy courtesy of Roland’s trip to New York, but this is all too brief. In fact, the whole thing short-changes both fans of the novels and newcomers at a swift 95 minutes.
Elba is excellent but there’s too little action or story to really get your teeth into before the inevitable setup for the sequel, in yet another would-be franchise. Considering what could have been, it’s disappointing – but The Dark Tower is a dud rather than a disaster.
CAST: Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor, Claudia Kim, Fran Kranz, Abbey Lee, Jackie Earle Haley
DIRECTOR: Nicolaj Arcel
WRITERS: Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, Anders Thomas Jensen, Nikolaj Arcel (screenplay), Stephen King (based on the novels by)
SYNOPSIS: Roland Deschain has been locked in an eternal battle with the Man in Black, determined to prevent him from toppling the Dark Tower, which holds the universe together. With the fate of all worlds at stake, good and evil will collide in the ultimate battle.