Spoilers below the poster – continue reading at your own risk.
I should probably start by saying I used to be a huge Stephen King fan to the point of hunting down first editions of most of his books, along with rarities like the first appearance of short stories in magazines and so on. While I’ve not really bothered with much of his later stuff, after The Stand, the Dark Tower books are my favourite of all his works and they hold a special place in my heart.
With all that out of the way, I guess it was kind of inevitable that I’d be a little disappointed in the film as an adaptation of the books. I was hoping for a Lord of The Rings scale epic without really expecting one . . . but even those lowered expectations were too high, as it turned out.
From the opening text on screen where it said something like “The Dark Tower sits at the centre of the universe” (which I was happy with) but then followed it with “It is said a child’s mind can destroy it” (which was utter bollocks) I realised things weren’t going to go well.
The film is so by the numbers, it’s boring. Jake Chambers here on our Earth (referred to as Keystone Earth throughout the film, another departure from the books) has dreams of the Man in Black and the Dark Tower, as well as the Gunslinger. It turns out the Man in Black has people on all the Earths capturing children with any semblance of psychic power – or shine in a nod to another King book – and strapping them into a machine in order to fire mind bullets at the Tower. Before he can be captured, Jake manages to get to Mid-World and meet up with the Gunslinger, Roland, who’s on a quest – not to protect or reach the Tower, as in the books, but to kill the Man in Black. They end up coming back to Keystone Earth, get some supplies, Jake gets captured and strapped into the psychic missile launcher, before Roland gets back to Mid-World. He faces off against the Man in Black, killing him after being inspired by Jake, then frees Jake and destroyers the bad guys’ base, thus saving the Tower.
There are a handful of other characters who wander in, many of whom die, but with the possible exception of Jake’s mother, next to none of them have any lasting impact on the main characters. They turn up, say their piece, then either die or are never seen again. At the end, Jake goes back to Mid-World with Roland to become a Gunslinger just like him.
It’s hard for me to get across just how disappointing this film is – not just as an adaptation, but as a stand alone film as well. There’s nothing in there that really works; you know pretty much how everything’s going to go, and if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the stand out scenes already. Those scenes – Roland firing his pistol through a window, some washing, and a field to save Jake; Roland reloading almost at the speed of light; Roland mowing down his enemies – should have either been left for the finished film or tasters for even better ones. As it is, by the time those scenes come along, the film has been so bogged down in predictable nonsense that I didn’t even care.
It’s worth mentioning that both Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey do the best they can with what they’re given – McConaughey almost goes full on Anthony Hopkins scenery chewing in a couple of scenes but just about manages to resist; Elba is, as always, superb in every scene, but the sad thing is neither of them are given anything worth working with.
This could have been the start to a fantastic series of films, building up to an epic finish if they’d gone the way of the books.
Instead, it ends up as the equivalent of taking Lord of The Rings and producing Beastmaster.
Thanks to the performances of Elba and McConaughey, I’ll give this one Tower out of five.