"I do not aim with my eye, I aim with my heart."
I feel like while the rest of the world was speculating on whether or not the adaptation of Stephen King’s ‘The Dark Tower’, I was still busy losing my mind over the mere fact that we were getting this adaptation at all. In fact I still refused to believe that this would even pan out until I was actually seconds away from seeing it as the project has been in development hell for decades. At one point Ron Howard was attached to direct, then it was going to be a HBO series and now finally, here we are. Now there is just the small matter of the actual movie.
Roland 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.
Quite often when you envision something in your mind for so long, and become so used to the idea that it will remain in that form forever, it can be difficult to accept an adaptation of said something. King’s book series is a sprawling fantasy epic that (without spoiling anything) is so intertwined with its own medium and story format that it seems hard to imagine it as anything else. I want to get that out of the way from the start since one can fall into the trap of not accepting any new form of a certain story due to loyalty for the old one. But I can assure you, that is not the reason why ‘The Dark Tower’ is the mediocre disappointment that it is.
King began his books with the instantly captivating line of “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed”. The movie, which is 95 minutes long, never even comes close to capturing the same intrigue or captivation as that single sentence. Granted the film is far from an absolute travesty but in a way that is almost a larger crime as at least then it would be somewhat memorable. At the end of the day, ‘The Dark Tower’ is just painfully mediocre in every degree. The only aspects that stand out are its two leads, Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey, who each fill out their roles with a certain amount of on screen presence that lends a lot to the weighted descriptions both of their characters are given. But everything else within the movie falls frustratingly flat.
The biggest and most prevalent issue with ‘The Dark Tower’ is that as a movie it feels like a sequel to a previous instalment we haven’t seen. The writing never immerses the viewer within the world, never drawing up any intrigue into the characters or their environment, never fleshing out the people it is introducing us to and never providing an adequate explanation as to why I should care about any of it. We are dropped into this world and never given any time to explore it. The characters feel more like an obligation than integral parts of the story and the story itself rattles along with no real drive or urgency. A runtime of 95 minutes would appear to be ill suited to a movie of this kind but when you look at the pace and structure of this movie, it comes across as something that once had a much larger scope but was edited down to its basic components in a bid to rush out a franchise because this is from the same studio who gave us ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’.
Not only does the runtime hurt the movie’s overall framework but even the more intricate details of its production seem to have been hurt. The movie flies by but not in a way that feels involving, more in a way that feels like if you blinked you could have missed it for how little substance there was within the narrative. ‘The Dark Tower’ feels cobbled together not just in terms of tone or vision but in the actual method of filmmaking, in that the studio just picked up whatever pieces of footage they could find and sewed them together. Occasionally the movie genuinely seemed to feature young actor Tom Taylor visibly aging between scenes as if they were each filmed many months, or maybe even years, apart.
Beside that though, there really isn’t anything atrocious to be found within ‘The Dark Tower’. Its cinematography and direction may be somewhat flat and lifeless but it never seems outright unpleasant to look at. Despite being filmed and designed without any real flair or innovation the action scenes are decently constructed. There really is not anything I can point to as being particularly remarkable either in a positive or negative way. But as I said before that in itself seems like an even greater disservice to the rich and memorable world King created.
Unremarkable in almost every regard, ‘The Dark Tower’ squanders its rich source material in favour of a bland, generic blockbuster.