I really wanted to like this one. I can’t. It had what looked like a great cast, iconic source material, a premise that suited my proclivities — in short, it should have been an easy win in my book. Well, hopefully, I can help some of you avoid the disappointment that I’ve had to endure by telling you that The Dark Tower is a steaming pile of excrement stacked higher than the eponymous edifice itself.
In what is certainly a first in my moviegoing experience, I heard someone leaving the theater remark to a friend: “I haven’t read the books, but I think I would’ve liked them better.” Truer — and sadder — words were never spoken. What could have been a suitably epic adaptation of Stephen King’s magnum opus amounts to little more than a tepid attempt to cash in on the built-in audience of one of the world’s most popular living authors. And even that act of cynical opportunism I could have forgiven, if only The Dark Tower hadn’t sucked so completely and egregiously.
Much has been said elsewhere of the troubled production history of this long-gestating adaptation, but the short version is that after both JJ Abrams and Ron Howard failed to get the film off the ground, Dutch journeyman Nicolaj Arcel (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, A Royal Affair) was brought on board in the director’s chair. Test screenings resulted in audiences confused by the mythology — and bear in mind, this is an adaptation of eight books that ostensibly tie King’s entire oeuvre into a shared universe — so the film was recut by executives into a shorter, dumber package.
Just how dumb boggles the mind, as characters repeatedly dump redundant exposition at every opportunity in a blatant disregard for the intelligence of audiences. Co-writer Akiva Goldsman is in full Batman and Robin mode here — though it should be noted that the three other credited writers must not have helped much — as he turns a complex and nuanced mythos into Harry Potter minus the character development with a bunch of ham-fisted references to other King stories compulsorily thrown in. There are moments that suggest the longer film Arcel initially turned in, but if the truly abysmal effects work and set pieces are any indication, we’re not missing out on anything worthwhile.
If The Dark Tower has any redeeming qualities whatsoever, they fall under the auspices of Idris Elba’s stoic performance. As much as I love Matthew McConaughey, I have to acknowledge that he’s occasionally awful — as I often point out to people touting the McConnaisance by referencing True Detective, McConaughey and Woody Harrelson had previously co-starred in a movie called Surfer, Dude. Look it up — it’s terrible. And yet, I’d take Surfer, Dude over The Dark Tower any day.
As bad as I’m making this film sound, I’m really not doing it justice. For every The Shining or Carrie (1976), there must naturally follow a Maximum Overdrive or Carrie (2013), but a story with this much promise should never have ranked among the lesser King adaptations. I mean, if you can’t get Lord of the Rings meets A Fistful of Dollars right, why bother making films in the first place? All I can say to Arcel, Goldsman, et. al. is “shame on you.” Go stand in the corner and think about what you’ve done. Rated PG-13 for thematic material including sequences of gun violence and action.
Now Playing at AMC Classic River Hills 10, Carolina Cinemark, Regal Biltmore Grande, Epic of Hendersonville.