The studio that fucked up The Dark Tower movie fled across the desert, and the Stephen King/movie critic fan followed…
The Dark Tower? More like “The Shit Tower”.
I’m gonna be honest, while I am a big Stephen King fan, he’s my favorite writer, I haven’t exactly gotten into The Dark Tower series. Granted, I read a bunch of the comics and the first book, but still, I didn’t have a lot of baggage going into The Dark Tower movie. Still, I have a feeling that even if I did read every one of those books, I’d probably be more disappointed in this movie than I am now, because it’s a piece of shit movie on its own and a shitty adaptation. The trailers already gave me an idea of what kind of shitshow I was in for, but I tried to be optimistic, and look how that paid off lol.
This movie had been in development for a long time. First J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof were attached to it, but then they backed down fearing that they’d screw it up (they probably couldn’t screw it up more than the people that made this movie), then Ron Howard was gonna direct it but I guess he was busy and stayed on as executive producer, and finally Nikolaj Arcel directed and co-wrote it. Multiple studios such as Warner Bros. and Universal were gonna make it but also dropped out due to how massive the books are, until finally Sony stepped in, and that right there should’ve spelled a recipe for a disaster, given their history with properties and track record with other movies, especially since they were responsible for The Emoji Movie (which I’m gonna get to soon, so pray for me) that came out a week prior to this film. Not to mention there were different plans as to how the series itself would be adapted, be it just adapting all eight books into movies, a trilogy of films and a TV series, or something else entirely. Honestly, any of those ideas might’ve been better than what actually came out, if given the right direction and vision, but sadly that’s not the case.
Some things I can give this movie praise for is the acting from the three main leads and some of the action sequences. Idris Elba really does sell on playing the part of Roland Deschain, a battle-weary and cynical warrior consumed with vengeance. Despite some of this movie’s ridiculousness, he manages to play this pretty straight through his dialogue, tough-guy attitude with some vulnerability, and facial expressions. There’s also some “fish out of water” moments for him when he comes to Earth, which can be kinda funny but also superfluous given how this movie is. The bonding moments between him and Tom Taylor as Jake Chambers are pretty great, as they form a sort of friendship that provides some positive aspects to Roland and kinda help break down his hard exterior. Despite what some people would say about child or teen actors being terrible, Tom Taylor was pretty great as Jake Chambers. He’s not written or portrayed as a whiny or annoying kid character seen in most media, but an actual character with an actual arc, despite some cliches like having issues with his stepdad and problems with other kids at school. If Stranger Things has taught me anything, it’s that child actors can actually be pretty great if given the right material. It’s unfortunate however that Taylor is saddled with a shitty movie. Matthew McConaughey is also devilishly delightful as The Man in Black. Basically it’s like if he were playing Loki in the MCU instead of Tom Hiddleston. He also seems to have a lot of fun in the role, considering from what I understand about the character as he’s sort of a trickster-type that’s always taunting the more straight-laced protagonist. And while the action sequences aren’t so much intricate and “artsy” like in John Wick and John Wick: Chapter 2, they are at least somewhat coherent and not so much cut-happy like in the Transformers sequels and other action schlock. And that’s about it as far as praise goes for this movie. There’s also some references to other King stories, like how the psychic powers that Jake and others have is called “shining”, the portal Jake and Roland go through is numbered “1408”, there’s a picture of the Overlook Hotel from The Shining, a red toy car like the one from Christine, some graffiti of roses and “All Hail the Crimson King” on walls, and probably others I guess. It is kinda humorous to see this stuff in there, but it might get a bit distracting for any newcomers seeing this.
Despite adapting from a well-renowned book series, this movie instead feels like it’s trying to cram material from all eight books. On top of that, this movie is also rushed too, considering it has a running time of AN HOUR AND A HALF. And yet, despite the relatively short running time, this movie also kinda drags in places too. I don’t know what it is, but it’s like this with a lot of bad movies with short running times, in that they feel both fast and slow at the same time. Apparently part of this is because both Arcel and Stephen King himself have said that this movie is stylized as a sequel of sorts to the book series, I guess, yet this didn’t seem to help me when watching it and I don’t think it will help anyone coming in to see this for the first time either. Oftentimes I had no idea what was going on when this movie was playing. Jake has dreams about a tower, an evil man, and a gunslinger, he gets chased around, finds himself into another world, meets the gunslinger, and they go to Earth to stop the bad guy from doing bad guy things I guess. Yeah I know I kinda just summed up and simplified the plot, and that’s also part of the problem. A lot of people say that the books are complex and are enjoyable for being that way, which I guess makes sense since Stephen King does a lot of weird stuff in his stories, yet with condensing a lot of the stories from the books into this movie, it ends up being a bland and conventional fantasy flick. It makes sense given how it was written full of cliches and bland lines, and even though the actors try their best with the shit material written for them, the direction is lost with no clear vision of how to portray this story.
Considering this was produced by Sony, it’s no surprise how this movie became what it is. Instead of the movie being about Roland and how he’s on his journey to get to The Dark Tower and stop The Man in Black, the movie treats him as more like second bananas to Jake Chambers. Sure, there’s some backstory revealed here and there, and Idris Elba does pretty great given the material, but when he’s given top-billing for this movie, the story of which is adapted from a book series in which his character is the main protagonist, and he’s often the main feature in a lot of marketing, I would’ve liked to have seen him be the main protagonist. However, Roland here is portrayed like how other “main characters” are portrayed in cheap live-action adaptations of beloved properties like Masters of the Universe, The Smurfs movies, the Transformers sequels, and others, in which he’s not the main focus but rather it’s the “normal” character. Also much like those shitty adaptations, instead of taking place more on the fantasy world, that being Mid-World in the series, a lot of it takes place on Earth. The effects also look pretty terrible at times, even though apparently the budget is reported to be $60 million, and one action sequence takes place at night in which the monsters are hard to make out what they look like (with The Mummy 2017 and Spider-Man: Homecoming, what is it with movies this year and action sequences taking place at night that are hard to look at?) And again, since it’s produced by Sony, there’s also some product placement in it too, like a Sony laptop being used by Jake, Roland drinking some Coca-Cola cans, and near the end of the movie Roland and Jake are eating hot dogs and drinking Coca-Cola with a KFC in the background. To be fair, the product placement in this movie isn’t all that bad, in fact there’s bound to be product placement in a lot of movies, but sometimes if the movie is good, then it wouldn’t be so bad. Unfortunately, since this movie is bad, then it’s kinda worth nitpicking over.
It’s such a shame that a beloved book series such as this is dumbed down so much. I think this movie will be for The Dark Tower series what The Last Airbender is for Avatar: The Last Airbender, only difference I guess is that the acting is better. Granted, I haven’t seen the latter film, but I think it’s a valid statement based on what I’ve heard about it and reviews I’ve seen. Apparently there were also plans to turn this into a franchise of sorts, but considering how this movie turned out, I don’t think that’ll happen. Much like The Mummy 2017, it’s less concerned of being a great movie on its own and more of a first installment of a cinematic universe of some kind. While I like the idea of a cinematic universe based on Stephen King stories, and I do think it’s possible with the right person, the right direction, and the right vision, I don’t think this is it. The Harry Potter movies and The Lord of the Rings trilogy had more effort put into em as both adaptations and standalone movies, and this movie could’ve been like that too if anyone making it had fucking tried at all. Game of Thrones has also proven that a massive book series can not only be adapted well as a television series, but also be a good show in its own right, and maybe that’s how The Dark Tower should’ve been adapted in the first place, instead of whatever this movie is. Maybe get Frank Darabont, known for his prolific adaptations of King stories such as The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and The Mist, (that is if he ever gets done suing AMC and others who screwed him over on The Walking Dead) Who knows if that’ll happen at this point. At least there’s the new IT movie to look forward to and hopefully make up for this sorry excuse for a King adaptation.