I had been looking forward to The Dark Tower for some time now. Just a few months ago, there had been no trailers released for the film and, overall, there was fairly minimal marketing. However, the first trailer came out and had me thoroughly intrigued. But then early critic reactions came out and tempered my expectations. Since then, I had lost a little enthusiasm for seeing it. Despite what other critics may have thought though, I really liked this film.
Watch a trailer for THE DARK TOWER now!
The Dark Tower is an adaptation of a series of five books by Stephen King. It tells the story of a young boy who is having some disturbing dreams of a Man in Black (played by Matthew McConaughey) and a Gunslinger (played by Idris Elba) in another world. Through the knowledge gained in his dreams, he eventually stumbles across a portal into this alternate world and hears of the Man in Black’s plot to destroy the eponymous Dark Tower which protects all worlds from evil.
A science fiction film like this depends so much on the world-building and making it believable. To that, I feel the filmmakers did a great job. It truly seemed to be a world other than our own but one that still held a tangible connection to “Keystone” Earth as they call it. There are lots of interesting elements to it: the history of the Gunslingers and their war to protect the tower, Seers, loose-skinned servants and the creatures from outside the worlds. All of it was intriguing and kept my interest very well.
That would all be for nothing if the characters did not keep you interested and here, we have yet another film where a child is the lead. Again though, the young actor Tom Taylor is incredible and his relationship with the Gunslinger was one I bought into. Elba plays the disenchanted and distant cowboy, who has lost all faith in himself and the world (or worlds) around him and he is just… Cool… Very cool. The relationship shadows that of a father and son and develops beautifully. One touching scene involving the Gunslinger’s Creed is great. Some great fish-out-of-water moments happen too with the boy and the Gunslinger, one bringing you into the plot and the other providing some nice humour.
McConaughey’s villain was a little hit-and-miss for me. Altogether, I enjoyed his role still. His powers were commonly shown to be similar to Kilgrave from Netflix’s Jessica Jones but with some additional magic thrown in. I wanted him to really show off his powers a few more times as he often just told people to “stop breathing”. The scenes where he showed off his powers more were often unsettling, particularly one with the main character’s mother which, I shall not spoil, but came across as creepy and ended with nice ambiguity. The climactic final fight was initially a little anticlimactic but it built and built before a very satisfying conclusion.
I now have to address the elephant in the room and talk about the adaptation, or lack thereof, from the books to the film. I understand that this is five quite large novels condensed to a quite short 90-minute film, but to me, this was not an issue. I have never read the books and perhaps a lot of magic and mythology has been lost transferring it. But I have to review my impressions of the film and I did not find it to be thin on the ground. For a film of its length, it had enough backstory to keep me entertained and not too little or too much that I was bored or overwhelmed. Perhaps they could have had a longer film with more of that detail to appease fans more. However, I am not sure a five picture deal would have been on the cards here, considering how many big budget book adaptations like the Divergent series and the Maze Runner series (and even The Hunger Games, to some extent) have struggled in recent times. Committing themselves to more films, while ideal for fans, may have been unrealistic for Sony.
With that aside, I am going to disagree with the majority of critics and give this film a good score- I enjoyed the world they created for the film, characters and the villain for the most part. Elba’s cool Western-inspired character was a big bit of my enjoyment. So, to summarise, I will paraphrase the Gunslinger’s Creed. I do not watch movies with my eyes. Those who watch movies with their eyes have forgotten the face of the father. I watch with my heart. Get watching!