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The Dark Tower

The Dark Tower

Released 18 August 2017
Director Nikolaj Arcel

Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor

Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, Anders Thomas Jensen, Nikolaj Arcel

Akiva Goldsman, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Erica Huggins
Origin United States
Running Time 95 minutes
Genre Action, adventure, fantasy
Rating 12A

Towering stupidity.

The Dark Tower is a film that has many problems but chief among them is a very simple issue of aesthetics. Specifically, Matthew McConaughey’s tan. McConaughey plays the part of a devilish inter-dimensional wizard, who is set on bringing about Armageddon. This “Man in Black”, real name Walter (not exactly the most menacing or magical moniker), is supposed to be a demonic, threatening presence but with the small decision to allow McConaughey to keep hitting the sunbeds during filming, the whole character is ruined. With his waistcoat, open-necked shirt, black bouffant hair do and perma-tanned glow, McConaughey is about as threatening as David Copperfield. This naffness infects the whole film, which plays out like a confused patchwork of every fantasy adventure you’ve seen over the past fifty years of cinema.

You could see why Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba would have signed on for this movie. Based on the acclaimed Dark Tower series of books by Stephen King, the proposed movie franchise has an enormous ready-made fanbase. The film, directed and co-written by Nikolaj Arcel, takes elements from several instalments of the book series – and it shows. The attempt to simultaneously establish the world of the series while introducing its main characters, feels rushed and confused.

Our entry point into the series is via a teenage boy called Jake (Tom Taylor). Jake has been having strange, disturbing dreams about a Man in Black who is attempting to bring down a Dark Tower that holds the fabric of reality together. His dreams lead him to a portal which takes him to Mid World, where he meets Roland (again, where was King getting these names from??), a Gunslinger. These prodigious marksmen were once sworn to protect the Tower against attack but after an overwhelming defeat by the forces of the Man in Black, he is the last of his kind. As Jake is hunted down for his ability to “shine” (yes, as in The Shining), the Gunslinger attempts to protect him.

Looking at the production history of this project (chequered to say the least), it is hardly surprising that the resulting film is a mess. The narrative feels at once incredibly familiar and hopelessly convoluted and as somebody who is new to King’s creation, I found the whole thing underwhelming in the extreme. Events that should be tragic just fall flat as they are rushed through in order to make room for more exposition. The one highlight here is Idris Elba, an actor who is consistently compelling on screen and whose Gunslinger has the requisite grit. Overall though, it’s hard to see this film appealing to either Dark Tower fans or those new to the series.

- Linda O’Brien