OK, getting it out of the way early. I haven’t read Stephen King’s book series that “The Dark Tower” was based on. I can say, though, that the book series is probably much more entertaining.
This film adaptation follows the character Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), a young boy living in New York City who’s been having reoccurring dreams of a Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) who’s attempting to destroy the world. As it turns out, these aren’t just nightmares, but actual visions of the Man in Black, who’s trying to break the Dark Tower, a giant obelisk that protects the universe from darkness.
Eventually, these visions push Jake to leaving his home and finding a portal to another world. There he meets Roland (Idris Elba), a warrior who’s known by many as the Gunslinger. Together, the two set off to find the Man in Black, with Jake focused on saving the world and Roland wanting revenge on McConaughey’s character for killing the other gunslingers.
Something immediately noticeable about “The Dark Tower” is how short it is. The flick is roughly an hour and a half, and as a result, the movie doesn’t seem to have much time for world building, and to an extent, character building. Instead of feeling like an epic, deep adventure, the movie comes across more like a generic young adult action film. There’s not much here that surprises or thrills, instead the film is just dull and one note.
Another issue with “The Dark Tower” is its inconsistent tone. From this perspective, it seemed like the filmmakers were trying to have it ‘both ways.’ At some points it felt like an action film aimed at younger audiences, based on the humor and the story’s simplicity. But at other points, there is actually some disturbing imagery here and there, where it seems like it was made for more adult audiences. This lack of a consistent tone mixed with a story that didn’t bring much to the table in the first place makes for a film that’s not very compelling.
While the movie does score some points for having talented, award winning actors in Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey, their performances are unfortunately lessened by underdeveloped characters. For example, the audience finds out that the Man in Black is a sorcerer, but what are his motivations? The audience is never really informed besides ‘he’s evil, so there.’
Elba, meanwhile, does bring a good stoicism to Roland, but the character seems so lacking in terms of personality. Then there’s Jake, who’s presented as co-protagonist here, but seems more like the film’s McGuffin than anything, especially in the third act.
Maybe the most disappointing thing about “The Dark Tower,” though, is how bland it looks. The alternate world, for example is presented as empty, dull and unimaginative for the most part. There’s very little style presented, from the set design to the costumes, making for a visually forgettable experience.
Besides Elba and McConaughey, who carry enough talent to elevate their scenes just enough, the only other bright spot in the film are some of the action sequences. Seeing the gunslinger pull off his trick-shots and reload his revolver with ease is genuinely entertaining to watch and can hold one’s attention.
But I was hoping for more than just my attention to be held. Is “The Dark Tower” a terrible movie or the worst movie of the summer? No. But it’s just so dull. The film is too short to build an exciting world, the characters are underdeveloped, the tone is inconsistent and the film doesn’t offer an impressive look. This is maybe something you rent if you’re just interested in catching a straightforward, PG-13 action flick, but nothing more. 2.4 out of 5.