FILM REVIEW: THE DARK TOWER
BY KYLE ARANGO
The Dark Tower is directed by Nikolaj Arcel and stars Matthew McConaughey, Idris Elba, Tom Taylor, Kathryn Winnick, Jackie Earle Haley, and Dennis Haysbert. “The Dark Tower” is based on the “Dark Tower” book series written by Stephen King, a series comprised of eight books. This film had very low expectations going in because of all the troubles it had in getting made in the first place. The release date for this film was pushed back from February to August after poor test screenings made the studio want more time to improve the film adding another $6 million to the budget. The question is did the cost prove worthy in the final cut?
Let me start off by saying that this is not a bad film at all. It is also not a great film, it falls in that little gray area in the middle. The film exceeded its low expectations but not by much, there was a lot of missed opportunity in this film. With strong actors and a rich source material, the film just feels like it could have been so much more. McConaughey and Elba give it their all, but the script does not provide much for them to do. “The Dark Tower” is not a complete adaptation of the books, rather it is an inspiration of them. Fans of the books will be disappointed because from what I’ve been told, this is nothing like the books at all. Do not go in expecting an eight-book adaptation in 95 minutes.
The positives about this film are found in the acting and the action. The performances from the leads are exceptional. Matthew McConaughey as the “Man in Black” is charming yet menacing at the same time and he comes across as evil as he is said to be. Idris Elba as the “Gunslinger” is terrific and powerful as a man who is the last hope to stop evil. Tom Taylor is fine as Jake, but does not fully take advantage of what he is offered in the role. His acting is serviceable which is great compared to most child actors, but he just doesn’t do enough to sweep you off your feet. The action is also terrific in this film when it happens. With a “Gunslinger” in this film, you expect to see some slinging of guns and you most certainly do. The problem is, the action sequences are few and far between. Most of the film is exposition to make us understand what is going on, and that is a problem when the audience still has so many unanswered questions.
The negatives in this film are in some of the most important aspects, the tone and pacing. The tone is all over the place with moments of seriousness and heartbreak followed by jokes that never land. Attempts at humor fall flat and just create awkwardness. The pacing is also an issue for this film. The entire thing feels rushed from beginning to end where you are trying to understand something and it immediately takes you to another scene that you also need to understand. The original cut of this film was around two and a half hours and was chopped to an hour and a half after poor test screenings. You can feel the cuts as an audience because you can tell there was so much more there to learn but it was taken away. The movie definitely got me invested in the world, but I feel like I learned nothing which is a shame considering there is eight books worth of material they could have used. At its core, the film is a story of good vs evil, yet the stakes are never felt.
At the end of it all, “The Dark Tower” is a film that had so much potential to be an amazing film, but simply does not live up to its ability to succeed. The film feels both like a television pilot and series finale all in one which is funny considering a television serious is being made based off the Stephen King books. Strong performances and stellar action are not enough to outweigh the poor pacing and execution. “The Dark Tower” is another victim of “too many cooks in the kitchen” that pushes down what could’ve been so much more. The film is a fun time, but doesn’t offer much more for audiences wanting a great story. Hopefully next month’s “IT” can be a better Stephen King adaptation.