Saturday, August 5, 2017

Movie Review: "The Dark Tower" (2017)

Director: Nikolaj Arcel
Year: 2017
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes

The Man in Black steals kids that have a sixth sense known as 'the shine' in order to use them as a weapon to destroy The Dark Tower, a structure that keeps the world of demons separated from all other planes of existence. 

"The Dark Tower" is a sci-fi western directed by Nikolaj Arcel, who is known for directing films like "A Royal Affair" and "The Truth About Men." It is based on "The Dark Tower" novel series by Stephen King, which is nine books long in its entirety. It stars Idris Elba as the last ever Gunslinger named Roland Deschain, who is meant to defend The Dark Tower, a giant structure that keeps demons out of our world and many others. His nemesis is 'The Man in Black,' aka Walter, a wizard played by Matthew McConaughey. Walter the Wizard wants to destroy The Dark Tower so that the apocalypse can begin. He uses kids who have a sixth sense known as 'the shine' as a power source for his tower-destroying weapon. Walter the Wizard has discovered one particularly powerful kid named Jake Chambers, played by Tom Taylor, who is unaware of his true powers. After seeing both Walter the Wizard and the Gunslinger in his dreams and without help from his mom or stepdad, Jake winds up using his powers to seek out Roland for help and answers. A few others actors in this movie are Jackie Earle Haley and Abbey Lee, but their purposes aren't exactly known and the movie doesn't exactly go into their importance.

The single biggest mistake "The Dark Tower" makes is assuming the audience is already familiar with its source material. It's not that the plot is confusing, in fact, the basic plot is really simple (and what it is is repeated several times in its 1 hour, 35 minute run time). Walter the Wizard needs magik shine kids to bring down The Dark Tower, which will bring on the apocalypse, and the Gunslinger and Jake Chambers need to stop him. See? Simple!

What is somewhat confusing is the characters. They are all severely underdeveloped. This movie seems like it takes place in an intricate universe with demons, rat-boys, and villains who wear other peoples' skin. We would have loved for this movie to go into the details of this universe, but all of those seemingly interesting points are glossed over, painting the most impressionistic picture with the broadest strokes possible. In turn, the entire thing feels like a generic version of a "Lord of the Rings"-type of adventure movie. We have a hunch with the right people behind and in front of the camera, this story could have been an epic sci-fi western adventure just like the aforementioned LOTR, but in the process of editing the footage, it got hacked apart and put together in shambles.

Another major error is the casting of Matthew McConaughey as Walter the Wizard. He is the last person we would pick if you asked us "what actor has a menacing presence on screen?" The way he is playing the character as it stands right now, we half expected him to strip naked, spark up a joint, and say "alright alright alright" while playing the bongos. This role demanded an actor with a more sinister presence than McConaughey could ever have. Finally, there are a lot of dopey moments through this film between the sloppily written dialogue, the scenes with 100 jump cuts, and the poor editing of scenes. The CGI in the final showdown is super cheesy and looks like it was slapped together at the last minute. Luckily, the moments of gun-play are pretty fantastic, so it's not an entire bore.

The best part of "The Dark Tower" by far is Idris Elba, but then again, he could get filmed reading the dictionary and it would make for a compelling watch. Elba is a fantastic choice for Roland. He brings a great gravitas to the character and also has his moments of comedic charm. There are also some really good action sequences to keep audiences entertained in between all of the mediocre strings that thread the material together.

"The Dark Tower" is clearly based on an imaginative body of work, but we wish this had been shown in the final product of the movie. It might have some really cool set pieces and is anchored by a solid performance by Idris Elba, but the bad clearly outweighs the good here. We wish the world and its characters had been more developed with consideration for those who had not read the source material ahead of time. It's blatantly obvious there were problems behind the scenes of this film, and it definitely shows in its final product.

My Rating: 4/10
BigJ's Rating: 5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~6.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~18%
Do we recommend this movie: Meh.

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