the_dark_tower-movie-a-shoot-and-miss

The Dark Tower movie doesn’t tell the story of The Dark Tower. Or the one of The Gunslinger as you’d expect. Instead, it follows the adventures of Jake Chambers from New York. With high caliber actors, like Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey the focus stays on the less known child actor. Was this an attempt to appeal to a young audience? Probably.

Not the First Attempt to Adapt The Dark Tower

The flick was officially stated to be a sequel to the book series. While frowned upon by the majority of the fans, myself included, this was not the first iteration. Before finding its way to the viewers, the story had quite the ride. Early 2007 found J.J. Abrams attached to the project. He made a pass on it, three years later, due to lack of time. The project then landed with Ron Howard. It switched studios, from Universal to HBO and had a brief flirt with Warner Bros. Finally, with Sony Pictures and Nikolaj Arcel set to direct, the movie finally got to be made.

Idris Elba as The Gunslinger and Tom Taylor as Jake Chambers

The Plot

Jake struggles after the heroic death of his father. He then starts to have vivid dreams about a group of kids held in an unknown place. There’s a man in black, a tower, and The Gunslinger. It does not make sense, but he decides to draw everything in order to put together all the pieces. He’s convinced they are not just dreams, as his therapist suggests, but a glimpse into another world.

As it turns out, (surprise) he’s right. The Shine is responsible for these visions and it’s a common occurrence in Stephen King’s books. The power can be harnessed and it’s something that makes Jake a target for The Man in Black. But he finds a portal that lets him travel across worlds and teams up with The Gunslinger. Together they attempt to kill The Man in Black and save The Dark Tower and both their worlds from destruction.

The Dark Tower, as depicted in the movie.

Based on the amount of source material at hand, this plot is an oversimplification. While trying to make a case for The Dark Tower, the movie fails to create a real sense of danger. It fails to completely justify the motivation of the characters. It paints the story with only black and white, whereas the source material is composed of many shades of grey.

In the end, the movie based on an epic journey falls short. It reduces itself to a Sunday morning adventure flick you can watch with your kids. But an enjoyable one, at least.

The tower protects both our worlds. If it falls, hell will be unleashed. 

Now, I’m a fan of all of Stephen King’s Shared Universe, for that matter. So the expectation for the movie grew exponentially ever since the rumored casting. All the forums were buzzing with discussions in an endless stream of hype. It reached its highest point with the “leaked” trailer, right to the premiere day. But in the end, the goal was to make it an enjoyable experience. And it was.

I tried not to read any reviews from critics and moviegoers alike. I wanted to be able to form my own opinion. The feeling I had while watching for the first time was mostly positive. But my enthusiasm was cut short from the first sequence. The movie did not start with what might very well be the best start to any novel:

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

Bringing The Dark Tower universe on the screen and not starting with that consecrated phrase is blasphemy. The atmosphere felt almost right, yet everything was cut short. Every time there was something worth exploring, the film would go to the next scene. It would leave me wanting to have seen more in a rush to reach a high point that never came. It’s like they forgot that with The Dark Tower, it’s not about the destination, but it’s all about the journey.

The backlash from the fans for the 1h 35m duration was actually justified. After all, it’s a movie that’s supposed to be inspired by 8 books. Added to that, an entire interconnected universe that Stephen King created his entire life. Somehow, I feel like a full-length director’s cut would be in order and maybe that would do it some justice.

A Missed Oportunity

But what bugged me the most was the fact that they decided to use those sci-fi portals. The magic doors are a unique part of the series and let’s face it, they are cool. And not to mention the missed opportunity here for some great marketing. Just imagine the amount of attention for the movie if they started the marketing campaign with something like this:

I wanted to like the movie and for the most part, I did. But now, more than a year and six months after the premiere, I realize there is nothing left. The way they chose to use the characters and write the story felt empty. They cut all the dark parts and ditched some of the beloved members of the Ka-tet. Maybe with the upcoming TV series, we will get see the whole gang together. Until then, long days and pleasant nights!

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Well, To me it had the most elements of The Gunslinger in it, so I never understood why people complained about the fact that other Ka-tet members aren’t there. To me, it is very much like the first book, rough, weird, but making me curious where this might continue to. So I was never even half as displeased as anyone else.

  2. I saw this movie about 9 months ago. I still think of it occasionally when there’s discussion of McConaughey or Elba but the only word that comes to mind is disappointment. It was a movie for 12 year old boys not a movie for everyone, fulfilling every man’s boyhood dream. It felt more like a very long audition of tasks for the next Gunslinger and, with that, any story thread went poof.

  3. The movie’s not bad… if you neved read the book (s).
    As for many of Stephen King’s works, the movie is vastly different from the one we directed in our own heads :).
    One thing is undeniable, though. Idris Elba is one mean gunsliger.

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