There’s a creed The Gunslinger lives by in “The Dark Tower,” and it ends with: “You do not kill with your gun. He who kills with his gun has forgotten the face of his father. You kill with your heart.”
Director Nikolaj Arcel and everyone at Sony should have thought about that meaning more when adapting Stephen King’s eight-book series, because unlike The Gunslinger, they had no heart in their attempt to bring this classic to life.
Done in a brisk 90 minute running time, the movie feels like a bunch of scenes cobbled together. With a disregard to character development, or even simply giving the audience a moment to breath in the world, the feeling of watching “The Dark Tower” is like racing through a meal because you are late to an appointment.
At one point, I was imaging what it must have been like to edit this movie. Likely it was days filled with Sony Pictures head Tom Rothman standing over the editor screaming, “IS IT DONE YET? IS IT DONE YET?? IS IT DONE YET!?!?!?”
The movie opens with teenager Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) having a nightmare that kids are being forced to be weapons for an evil Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) in his quest to destroy the Dark Tower, a giant black structure that goes high up in the sky. Seriously, that’s all I know about it. The movie gives very little indication of its importance outside of it being very powerful. Gradually, we learn that Jake continues to have visions of The Man In Black and Roland Deschain/The Gunslinger (Idris Elba), while noticing that people around him seem to be strange creatures disguised as humans. Eventually, Jake’s visions lead him to a portal to another dimension, and there he meets The Gunslinger. The two then go out to find the Dark Tower and also face The Man in Black.
I never read the King books, but it’s more than obvious Arcel and the slew of screenwriters who have taken on this project over the years — there are four credited, including Arcel — completely slaughtered King’s material.
Numerous supporting characters are given zero time for audiences to understand who they are and their importance in the story.
And even more bizarre is the major power Jack has in the movie is actually a reference to another King book.
About halfway through the movie, Jack discovers that he shines, which means he has psychic abilities. It’s a power Danny Torrance possesses in King’s novel, “The Shining.” Though it’s kind of cool that the movie makes a reference to another King classic, it’s also very weird. In King’s “The Dark Tower” books, Jack possess a similar power called “The Touch.” Wouldn’t it have made more sense to go with that? Fans of books like the movies they are based on to reference what’s actually in them.
It’s hard to fault Elba or McConaughey for their performances. Whatever they were sold on to accomplish in this movie likely never panned out. Honestly, outside of some fish-out-of water comedy done by Elba when The Gunslinger transports to Earth briefly, there’s nothing memorable about any performance.
It’s more than obvious Sony wasn’t looking to really make a movie for the fans of the books — which is just plain bizarre. They are the ones who can’t wait to see this!
“The Dark Tower” turns out to be just the latest in a long line of movies based on King’s books that are nothing like his work. The added problem with this one, however, is it’s nowhere near close to being as good a standalone movie as most of those others.
“The Dark Tower” opens in theaters on Friday.