Rogue Hippo’s Review Score: 3*
My mother always says, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” For my mother’s sake, I’ll try to come up with some positive things about The Dark Tower…
…if you need some stocking-stuffer ideas, I expect this movie will be in your local Walmart’s ‘$5 DVD’ bin by Christmas. That’s the only positive thing I can think of. Now, on to the real meat and potatoes…
Where to begin?
I guess a plot summary is appropriate: The Dark Tower refers to a tower that connects multiple worlds; including the two worlds in which the movie takes place: our world and Mid-World, which is sort of a post-apocalyptic wasteland full of monsters. The Man in Black is working to destroy the tower; which, in turn, will allow monsters to eradicate everything. To do this, he needs to use children as ammunition for his tower-blasting laser (yes, you read that correctly). One of these children is Jake, a boy from our world who, according to the bad guys, will make the best tower-blasting ammunition imaginable! Fortunately for Jake, he’s been having visions of this evil, tower-blasting plot and knows that he must find a heroic gunslinger to save the world(s). Enter Roland, the last of an honorable line of Gunslingers whose father was killed, years ago, by The Man in Black. As expected, Jake and Roland team up to try and thwart this nefarious plot! Gunfights ensue. (You can find the trailer here)
With that out of the way, Dark Tower fans are going to hate this movie. I realize that “hate” is a strong statement, but I feel it’s appropriate here; because The Dark Tower movie didn’t simply take some liberties with the original story, it’s as close to a total departure as I’ve ever seen in a film adaptation of a book. A few of the characters are the same… and that’s where the similarities end. Literally 100% of the story is made up. I realize that “literally 100%” is also a strong statement, but I stand by it. Fans of The Dark Tower books will find virtually nothing that they recognize…
- We don’t see Roland’s Gunslinger test versus Cort
- There’s no battle of Tull
- Roland is not forced to choose between Jake and The Man in Black
Hell, director Nikolaj Arcel could’ve simply made a 30 minute movie, showing those three scenes, and I would’ve given it a ‘5’; but he didn’t. He chose to completely ignore the Dark Tower story that fans have been waiting for for years. Oddly, there were efforts to appease fans; but they came off as almost insulting. Random voices occasionally whisper famous lines from the book, for no reason; “The Man in Black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed.” References to The Crimson King are painted on random walls… for apparently no reason (the character is, otherwise, never mentioned in the entire movie). Why make the effort to include these insignificant and unnecessary details when you’re defiling the grand scheme of things? Who approved these decisions? Seriously, how could the screen-writer, director, producer and studio execs all think it was a good idea to take a famous book series (that has a large cult following) and change the ENTIRE story?!?! Lately, movie studios have been accused of taking the easy route:
- Take a famous book
- Convert it to a 90-120 minute screenplay
- Make millions of dollars
Apparently that formula has become too challenging because they can’t even get that fucking right anymore!
Sorry… I’m letting my emotions get the better of me. I need to get back on track. Clearly, The Dark Tower isn’t for Dark Tower fans; but what about people, who haven’t read the books, that just want to see a sci-fi/horror/action movie?
Well, those people will probably enjoy it a little more because they won’t have any expectations (*I’d give it a 5 out of 10 if you have no knowledge of the books). The Dark Tower is about the same quality as an above average Sy-Fy Channel original movie; take that to mean what you will. Sy-Fy Channel is capable of some decent movies (think Battlestar Galactica: Razor, not Sharknado 3); but, so many times, they simply give you a convoluted end-of-the-world plot that really only serves as an excuse for explosions, CGI monsters and shoot-outs… and that’s really all you get from The Dark Tower. Is it worth going to the movie theater for a glorified Sy-Fy Channel movie? That’s up to you; but I can’t recommend it.
Even Idris Elba (Roland) and Matthew McConaughey (The Man in Black) aren’t enough to redeem this horrendous excuse for a movie. At 1 hour and 35 minutes, there just isn’t enough time for them to build up the feeling of awe and power that these characters have in the books. It takes half the movie before you even realize that Roland is a pretty good shot with a pistol. That’s unacceptable. Worse still, The Man in Black comes across as a creepy, emo guy; and not even “creepy” in a villainous sense, he’s “creepy” in a he-seems-like-the-kind-of-guy-that-would-slip-roofies-in-your-drink kind of way. I can’t say it’s McConaughey’s fault, as there is no character-building whatsoever, but it’s still very disappointing. If you want to see a controlling, cerebral villain done right, check out Kilgrave from Netflix’s Jessica Jones. He was pure evil! When he was around, you feared for the heroes! A Netflix series gave him the time to fully develop into a menacing villain.
Now that I think about it, The Dark Tower is really better suited to be a Netflix series. The heroes and villains would get the time they need to develop; and there are lots and lots (and lots and lots) of good stories that don’t deserve to be cut out, simply to get the movie down to 95 minutes. That being said, it’s my understanding that a Dark Tower tv series in the works; so hopefully that will give Roland and company a second chance to tell their story; because it deserves to be told with better care than it was given in The Dark Tower. One can only hope.
Until Next Time,
RIP Eddie, Susannah, Oy, Cuthbert, Alain, Cort, Jack Mort, Hax and everyone else who was unjustly omitted.