Jake’s shine is strong. He dreams about people he’s never met, things he’s never seen, places he’s never been. When the Man In Black sends fake skins to take him away, Jake steps into a portal between worlds in search of a man who he thinks can help, a legendary warrior from one of his dreams: the Last Gunslinger.
~No Spoiler Synopsis~
Jake Chambers has a very special mind. He sees things in his dreams. Strange, dark things. He doesn’t know it yet, but the stuff he dreams about isn’t just the overactive imagination of a subconscious mind. It’s all real.
His wall is covered in drawings of what he sees when he’s asleep. Some of them seem random, like the number 19-19, but others are more specific, like visions of people with fake human faces, a secret headquarters, and a man in black. Of course, everyone thinks he’s crazy (clearly they haven’t seen The Avengers or Inception), and his mother, Laurie, has been sending Jake to psychiatrists for help, assuming his strange dreams are a symptom of her son suffering psychological trauma tracing back to the death of his father. When officials come to take him to a psych camp recommended by his school, Jake is convinced his escorts are posers, with identities far more nefarious than their appearances would seem. He gathers his drawings and escapes, eventually setting off across worlds in search of another man he saw in a dream, one he thinks can help: Roland Deschain, last of the Gunslingers.
Soon Jake finds he has plunged headlong into a dark world full of eternal strife: a world where a sinister magician called the Man In Black labors relentlessly to destroy the Dark Tower, cornerstone of the universe, and Roland, the Last Gunslinger, is the sole protector of worlds. The Man In Black is coming for Jake, and Roland is consumed by his lust for vengeance. Pitted against the direst of evils, the universe is a hair’s breadth away from destruction.
~What to Expect~
The Dark Tower is adapted from a series of eight Stephen King novels of the same name. With a breakneck run time of ninety-five minutes, you can expect an especially abbreviated glimpse at the world (or worlds, rather) of Roland Deschain, Jake Chambers, and Walter O’Dim, with little time for character or plot development.
As we’ve come to expect of late, McConaughey (Mud, Magic Mike) delivers a captivating performance as Walter O’Dim, though his lines often come off far too cliché and shallow for the demon sorcerer of the Crimson King, a slight against the writers rather than Matthew. His wardrobe too—even his look overall (again not any fault of his own)—comes off half-baked: not much thought put into it, beneath the feel of his character and the film, low-budget even. This is a shame considering the amazing depth of creative opportunity that could have been realized in bringing this character to the big screen. Even so, the Interstellar star manages to bring his character to life despite the film’s shortcomings, and Tom Taylor’s first movie role as Jake Chambers is stellar: amusing, emotional, and one of the most authentic portraits of a troubled child character I’ve seen. Roland Deschain, played by the magnificent Idris Elba (The Jungle Book, Beasts of No Nation), suffers perhaps most of all from the overarching lack of character development throughout the film.
The graphics are riveting, probably the shining point of The Dark Tower. Gripping cinematography, extreme close up shots, and slow motion sequences throughout creates a piercing and sensory viewer experience. Elba has some flashy larger-than-life moments as mystically empowered and expertly skilled Gunslinger, and these scenes are extravagantly entertaining.
I would categorize The Dark Tower as a thriller—maybe a thriller-action hybrid—but it doesn’t have the feel of a traditional action flick. Even for a mere hour-and-a-halfer, it didn’t feel like a lot of fighting action. The movie’s plot is laid out in a way that is easy to follow (at times perhaps too easy) so, while viewers will certainly not experience the full weight of Stephen King’s bestselling series, anyone paying a reasonable amount of attention will easily be able to understand and follow the story.
The Dark Tower is an enjoyable and engaging movie. It’s underdeveloped and probably too abbreviated for its own good. (You try to fit eight novels into one hour-and-a-half movie—maybe they should have done it one book at a time?) If you haven’t read Stephen King’s series, this movie might just spark your interest. If you have read the books, don’t go in expecting the movie to wow you. You can’t capture a rich Stephen King world that developed over eight novels in a ninety-five minute film. Not gonna happen. But if you like McConaughey or Elba and dark science fantasy is your speed, it’s definitely at least worth a trip to the discount theater or Redbox when it’s released.
THE DARK TOWER – 5.5 of 10