Adaptation can be the finest form of flattery, but if you are not careful, it can also provide the shackles that bound up your artistic freedom. The “Dark Tower” is the latest Stephen King novel to adorn the silver screen.
The “Dark Tower” is an 8-part book series that extracts from different types of genres to formulate a special universe made of up multiple worlds with one basic connection, a dark tower. As the center piece of this universe, the tower was created to keep evil/darkness from reigning over the universe. If it were to fall, darkness would prevail.
Well darkness does fall, as the “Dark Tower” as a film doesn’t measure up to the literary works and comes short of becoming a good movie. With great actors and an incredible mythos, the “Dark Tower” had all the ingredients, but doesn’t develop or fully explore the symbolism and back story that made these books so beloved.
When it was announced that the “Dark Tower” run time was only 90 minutes, the prevailing thought was that there would be some narrative left on the cutting room floor – which was the case, as if the movie was afraid to delve deeper into the concepts of Mid-World.
Or maybe Nikolaj Arcel (Director/Writer) was handcuffed with how much he could adapt the story, and hampered with outdated themes. Because in a world filled incredible sci-fi films and special effects movie wonderment, believing that a western gunslinger hero could defeat a mystical demon with just bullets doesn’t easily render within modern imaginations.
The “Dark Tower” as a movie is a very basic story revolving around 3 characters – the retired good guy, the wicked evil guy, and a young protagonist. The acting in this movie is pretty good with Idris Elba as Roland Deschain aka the “Gunslinger”, Matthew McConaughey as Walter O’ Dim aka the “Man In Black”, and Jake Chambers played by Tom Taylor, but they are let down by the lack of connective tissue given for the worlds they inhabit.
The best parts of the movie reside within the first act, which introduces the strange world of the Mid-World. I wish that we had spent more time exploring the history of the Gunslingers, why they are revered and what makes Gunslinger Deschain special.
And what about the mystery of the Man In Black… how did he get his power and/or come into power.? Is he from the evil that lurks beyond the universe? And if so, is he powerful or just a conduit for that evil?
And lastly, where did the tower come from, and how could it protect the universe? Is it just a unit/tower or is it sentient, questions that would have made a great movie with an ability to franchise the answers.
The second act proceeds to leave the mystical Mid-World and travel to Earth to showcase the impact the battle for the Dark Tower has upon modern-day. The perception is that Earth will connect the audience to this unique story, but it changes the movie from a fantasy/sci-fi film to a fish out of water story. While different, this film bogs down and then lacks focus.
Finally, we are led into the final act, which was a commonly rehashed and conveniently driven exposition of good miraculously defeating evil. This ending is a disservice to the mysteries of the fantasy and undermines the acting performances that are forced into a happy ending.
In the end, the “Dark Tower” doesn’t fully disappoint, as the acting and the slight exposure to a compelling narrative is engaging, but the film will have you desiring more without wanting another movie to fill in those gaps. As the viewer, you won’t care whether the Tower falls and that is why the movie fails…so I guess here comes the darkness.