The Dark Tower: Movie Review

Westley Smith

The process of adapting Stephen King’s magnum opus in to a film has been a long, drawn out process, going though countless directors, writers (re-writes) stars (at one point Russell Crow was attached to star as Roland) studios, and even a planned TV series crossover that would tie in to a three film trilogy – which may or may not be moving forward at this time.

The problem is that King’s Dark Tower books are not easily adapted for the screen – maybe more so than any of his other works. There are a total of eight books coming in at 4,250 pages. Trying to adapt all of that material would be insane (by any filmmaker) and not to mention tiring for your average movie goer or TV watcher.

The decision was made (and King liked the idea as well) to make the movie adaptation for The Dark Tower as a sequel to the book series, while Roland is on the second journey of his quest – so in an essence, The Dark Tower film is its own thing, and only using the source material loosely. This also allowed the book adaptation to be opened to a wider movie going audience unfamiliar with the source material.

To some of the hardcore Dark Tower fans out there, this is a major letdown (or a slap in the face for sticking with 4,250 pages of reading) to just take the easy way out and make the movie its own thing.

I disagree.

As I stated above, adapting Stephen King is not easy – even some of his smaller works have been adapted into movies and they still are not as good as the books/stories. King is a very prolific writer. His books, though dealing with horror, monsters, and inner demons of characters are very literary tails. His style of story-telling is more akin to older story-tellers than for modern audiences and even movie adaptations. You have to invest your time, energy, and patients with a King novel as he takes you on a journey through the story.

Trying to flesh out The Dark Tower series into one movie (or even several) would be impossible to do. There is just too much to cover over the eight book series, a lot (even if they made all eight into movies) would have to be cut from the movie to save time.

The decision to make The Dark Tower movie a sequel instead was more of the way to go with this adaptation. And I think once you look at The Dark Tower movie that way, it helps elevate any preconception you may have of the film - remember in the books, Roland does create a time paradox that changes events.

The movie adaptation of The Dark Tower, follows Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) as he begins to have nightmares of The Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) and Roland Deschain (Idris Elba) and of The Dark Tower. He realizes that he’s being followed by The Man in Black’s goons – creatures that hide under human skin to disguise their true identity – because of his gift called ‘the shine’. Walter, also known as The Man in Black is collecting other kids with ‘the shine’ in hopes to bring down The Dark Tower, which holds the universe together, with the help of their gift.

The Dark Tower movie is not bad (as some would have you believe); it’s engaging enough that you can follow the story, the characters, and what’s going on and not become board or tied down with tedious amounts of detail that fill the novels – again this was made with the mindset of getting it to a wider audience and not just hardcore fans of the series. Here, the story is told pretty straight forward – a good vs evil tale.

The problem is that there just isn’t enough story to make one feel that what is happening on screen is really that big of a deal to the universe. The Man in Black’s goal ultimately is to bring down The Dark Tower, but you never learn why he wants to destroy it, and he never really feels that threatening to Roland because, unlike everyone else in the movie, he cannot control Roland – so the threat to Roland isn’t there and you know he’s going to win in the end.

The other thing is that we never get an idea of how big Mid-World is; we get snippets of dialog or images that suggest what it was, or is, but never a fully fleshed out realization of the world. The idea of jumping between worlds is never expanded upon – it’s just there as a plot device - nor are we ever given a clear explanation of what the creatures (The Man in Black’s goons) who are chasing after Jake and Roland are; there are a lot of plot holes. The scope of the film feels smaller than it should for this type of movie, unlike say Lord of The Rings. It all needed to be bigger, grander, the threat needed to be more sinister and not so easily stopped in the end. It’s a self-contained story that is wrapped up neatly at the end.

For fans of the books series there are plenty of hidden images pointing to The Crimson King and other Dark Tower lore, but again, it is never spoken of or mentioned in the movie and leaves you wondering what the The Crimson King is. I guess this is going to be addressed in future movies, if there are any.

There were a lot of Stephen King Easter eggs hidden in the movie though, and some of them are hard to spot, some are not. It’s fun to see that The Dark Tower was trying to say that all of King’s works (or at least a lot of them) are connected to this universe.

Both Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey are excellent in their rolls. Idris Elba, in my opinion, captured the spirit of Roland perfectly and pulled off The Gunslinger without any flaws – he understood his dry wit, his callous, and that he had only one thing in mind: killing The Man in Black. And you could not have cast a better Man In Black when they cast Matthew McConaughey as Walter – I would love to see him play Randle Flagg in The Stand (yes, I know they are the same character). Though the threat to Roland is lacking, to the rest of the characters surrounding The Man in Black, McConaughey chews up the scenes in a devilish good way, and really sells himself as the ultimate bad guy who, at times, can climb under your skin.

For the general audience, who know nothing about The Dark Tower series (nor has any interest in reading the books) I’m sure they will enjoy this movie for what it is – a fun action/fantasy movie with a decent story, characters, and is well acted and aptly directed from a script that is lacking understanding of the source material.

For hardcore Dark Tower fans, they are going to hate this water-down version and would just rather go back and re-read all 4,250 pages of the books than put themselves through watching this movie again.

6 out of 10 Stars

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