The Dark Tower (2017)

“So, when’s the Apocalypse coming?”

Let me be as clear as I can: The Dark Tower is, I can only assume since I haven’t read the novels, a despicable adaptation of the beloved series in nearly every respect. It really doesn’t deserve to be called an adaptation, nor should it be. With Stephen King’s 8 books adding up to a whopping 4,250 pages, no single movie could have come close to doing it justice. By comparison, Harry Potter amounts to 3,407 pages and unfolds over 8 feature-length films. As such, it appears as if the studio’s decision was made with their bottom-line budget in mind, taking the easy way out and diluting this rich fantasy world into the simplest, most straightforward, 90’s inspired blockbuster that this 95 minute movie could ever amount to. And you know what? I thought those deductions sort of worked in its favor. Call me crazy.

Jake’s (Tom Taylor) dreams are always the same. He has visions of a great Tower holding the universe together, a Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) trying to destroy it and unleash evil on the separate yet united worlds, and a lone Gunslinger (Idris Elba) – the last of his kind – capable of defeating the dark sorcerer. Jake hitches a portal over to the Gunslinger, inspires him to face his enemy, and eventually brings him back to Earth in order to find revenge and fight for humanity. It’s all nuts and bolts, loose ends and empty announcements, piecemeal parts that literally can’t be understood (i.e. rat people who wear human skin, because…I still don’t know why). I have a feeling that The Dark Tower will be a major turn off to those who read cover to cover, and that it definitely isn’t sublime enough to gain new readers. But when I took this film at face value and appreciated the dumb entertainment demonstrating decent comedic timing, a handful of energized action sequences, and two appealing performances from some of our best actors, I realized I was watching ever-so-gently improved Hollywood junk.

Series of this magnitude are massive gambles with the potential to bankrupt entire studios and curtail careers. While I’d argue against their decision to give us such a pocket-sized and cliff-notes version with entire pages ripped out, I can’t entirely denounce it either. Do you call the bluff and risk losing everything or do you simply check down and play your cards? The Dark Tower does the latter of the two (save for the envisioned prequel TV series, which given the film’s poor box office receipts, I doubt finds its way to any network). Everything about this movie is safe. And normally I’d hate that approach, typically calling it a lazy charlatan without depth and a movie for people who don’t know cinema. The Dark Tower is both of those things, but it seems to know it too, owning its stupidity by signing on the dotted line. I can’t help but to believe that had it not been an adaptation of such prized material, and had it been a straight-up original action fantasy with no ties to literature, that The Dark Tower’s campy confines would have been welcomed by a far larger audience.

This movie is delirious and dumb and clumsy. The less sense you try to make out of it the better off you will be. But that’s not to say it’s brainless either. The Dark Tower has a lot of intriguing ideas pulsing throughout its brevity, making us wonder “why this” and “why that,” demonstrating a uniquely inept ability to be about plenty of things and not really anything else at once. As such, we kick back and watch another of the countless battles between good and evil. We see Matthew McConaughey having a riot playing a character worse than the Devil himself, cooking chicken on an apartment stove-top, killing foes with a hushed voice or flick of the wrist, acting on desire and never on thorough motivation. And we inherently side with the Gunslinger, seeking vengeance against hate and all of its supporters. Had it been released at a different time, I’d have said Nikolaj Arcel’s movie was profoundly stupid. Yet, as we face indescribable hatred infiltrating our streets once more, maybe its simplicity is its greatest attribute. So, lesson be learned to those who side with darkness: the good guys always win. The Dark Tower is a film run amok and a story more benign than it is cancerous. I would have loved this movie as a child; that I’m 27 and still had a little fun with it is a supernatural phenomenon.

“Close your mind. Let the pain run through you.”

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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