Release Date: August 3rd, 2017
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Idris Elba, Tom Taylor
Director: Nikolaj Arcel
Studio: Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE), Media Rights Capital (MRC), Imagine Entertainment, Weed Road Pictures
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
IMDB | Wikipedia | Rotten Tomatoes
“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”
So begins the 1982 classic novel The Gunslinger by Stephen King. After 35 years, his sprawling epic has been brought to the silver screen as The Dark Tower. Unfortunately, in this flick the Man in Black isn’t really fleeing anywhere, instead he is pursuing our heroes and running a sci-fi brain drain space gun and the gunslinger seems to be meandering about. And the desert only really exists for about 7 minutes.
Point is, this movie flips the script when it comes to the Dark Tower mythos, and not in a good way. As a reader of the first four books, I found the plot completely foreign, only to be told by my Dark Tower uberfan of a roommate that it actually combines the first book (in the sense that Jake and the Gunslinger exist) and the seventh. Which is pretty wild.
Anyways, let’s say, hypothetically, you are seeing this movie without any knowledge of the source material. You’re looking for a weird fantasy action movie and damnit you like Idris Elba so this should be up your alley yeah?
As mentioned before, this movie makes the terrible choice of following McGuffin kid Jake Chambers as the primary protagonist rather than Roland Deschain. In fact, Roland doesn’t join the movie until 30 minutes in. 30 minutes! Of a ~90 minute movie!
Instead, the first half hour is Jake having whacky dreams and fleeing from people wearing fake human skin suits. Then he steps into a portal taking him to Mid-World where he meets the gunslinger and spends, maybe 20 minutes – maybe – before heading back to New York City for there to be hit and miss humor of the fish outta water variety and uninspired, boring gunfights between Roland and followers of the Man in Black.
The movie over explains the simplest things, dropping what would be genuinely cool ideas yet they land as duds. An example: The Man in Black tells his followers through various exposition dumps about Roland (rather than have the movie show us these cool things) and while Roland is busy blowing away generic bad guys he tells them, “His guns are made from the Sword of Arthur of Eld – Keystoners call it Excalibur.”
Or something to that effect, I am paraphrasing. The point being that Roland is a descendant of King Arthur and his guns are forged from Excalibur is cool AF. But instead it is dropped like a rotten apple, casually discarded so that more time can be spent watching McConaughey move his hands awkwardly.
Aside from Excaliguns, there are a few other cool ideas in the flick that still they find a way to ruin. The Gunslinger Creed,
“I do not aim with my hand. He who aims with his hand has forgotten the face of his father. I aim with my eye.
I do not shoot with my hand. He who shoots with his hand has forgotten the face of his father. I shoot with my mind.
I do not kill with my gun. He who kills with his gun has forgotten the face of his father. I kill with my heart.”
This is some next level awesome sci-fi/fantasy nonsense, like on the spectrum there with The Litany Against Fear. The movie makes sure it gets over used in the final act and also puts the words into the mouth of the least enjoyable character (that’s right, our boy Jake) in the climax to really sour our taste of the whole thing. Thanks Akiva Goldsman!
This movie isn’t the worst movie in the world, but it made a far worse mistake for something with the potential to be so weird and unique. It was bland. The Dark Tower is in theaters everywhere but like, don’t.