I am disappointed on all fronts with The Dark Tower, as much because it is not especially bad as I am because it is not good. I am not one, generally, to root against a movie. I didn’t want The Dark Tower to be bad, but as its release neared and possibility that it would be good seemed ever more remote, I had hoped that it would be truly, spectacularly awful. At least that would have been interesting. The Dark Tower can’t even manage that. It bungles everything just enough to blandly pointless, not to be terrible enough to get any ironic enjoyment out of it.
Idris Elba, who is awesome as usual, plays Roland, the last of the gunslingers. I start with him, even though he is not the lead. That is the young Tom Taylor who plays Jake Chambers, a young boy who has visions of the alternate reality where Roland and his enemy, the Man in Black, live. The movie follows his story, not Roland’s, for almost the entire first half and the second half is at best even between the two.
Fans of the book will recognize many elements of the movie, but many of them who have been rearranged into new forms. I don’t want to give much away, because spotting call backs to the books is one of the chief pleasures anyone watching this movie will glean from it.
It starts with Jake having visions of the Man in Black and his attacks on the Tower. The people around Jake think he is crazy, including his step-dad, who wants to send him to some kind of sanitarium. Just as he is to be sent upstate to visit this facility, which he already knows is connected to the Man in Black and his evil allies.
From there, it is mostly a collection of disinterested clichés. Roland has given up on his gunslinger calling, but Jake attempts to inspire him to be better while learning about the relationship between various alternate realities. Idris Elba is really good, but the movie can’t maintain any moment or generate any really interest outside of a few isolated scenes, which leaves him with nothing to do most of the time.
I’ll repeat that it isn’t a disaster. It feels like a case of too many cooks in the kitchen, which ended up sanding off anything interesting. It makes sense from a scene to scene basis, though it never really takes the time to explain itself. It feels less propulsive and more like the connections were edited out. Still, there is hint of something good here that just couldn’t find its way out.
I’m not really a fan of The Dark Tower books. I was at one time, but I really didn’t care for much in the last two books and found the ending somewhat insulting. I haven’t read the books at all since I finished the 7th just a few days after I got it for Christmas the year if its release. Watching this movie reminded me of what I once liked about this series, even if it actually delivers very little of that enjoyment.