Stephen King, one of the most iconic authors to walk the earth at this point in time, once stated that he was most proud of his expansive universe series of “The Dark Tower” in which it spanned across 8 novels. With the amount of expansive world building that must’ve continued to grow and build throughout the series, Sony’s tasteless cardboard cutout film adaptation attempts to soar you into the mythos in just one movie. It’s a factory product so tasteless that any hopes for future improvement are diminished by the end. At a mere 95 minutes, it’s so quick that there’s no time to fixate on the lure, though had the script material been any longer would’ve seemed just as obtund.
The story does not quite open with the man in black fleeing across the desert and the gunslinger following (when the sentence does make its appearance it’s horribly half-assed), though it does open with our lead, Jake. His dreams have been inflicting with the serge of earthquakes on earth, visions of evil conquering good and a large black tower that could possibly be at the center of it all. Soon after, the henchmen from his dreams do come for Jake, as he escapes to the house which will bring him to a portal: a new world awaits. Experiencing the reality of his dreams, him and the Gunslinger Roland (by the ever so fabulous Idris Elba) embark on a mission to protect the tower which holds both worlds together, and to defeat the man in black whose behind it all.
For all it wants to elicit, there’s no sense of wonder or excitement to be found in the movie. It’s worldly geography is bogged down to minimal uses of location despite a beautiful sequence or two shot in South Africa. Both worlds exist along side each other though both seem rather limited. We meet a colony at one point in the film but nothing goes further than such. Our planet Earth, seemingly in danger, only features a fairly stable New York with a few earthquakes that the majority is rarely bothering to take too much notice of. Never does the universe feel like something mysterious, but more often than not feels lost.
If anything wants to be centralized thematically here, it’s the action. It’s completely watchable, just lacks taste. As Roland kills with his heart, he can never fail to miss a target, making for some impressive movement. It’s a shame the camera is limited to cuts and wide shots. We get to see action take place, but we never feel as if we’re there, or experiencing it any other way than an audience member. Idris Elba is about the only character who is showcased in the action sequences, and he does what he can to elevate the bland writing. Tom Taylor as Jake shows the likings of range, but never truly getting to showcase it.
Of all it’s glaring issues, Matthew McConaughey as The Man in Black is a huge miss. He never comes of as menacing as he should, as Matthew doesn’t carry the vibe in appearance or voice. The character lacks clever connotations that even a snarky persona would normally carry. Him and his army of aliens in human flesh pose threat without danger.
With no primary distinction in its filmmaking than any other studio film these days, The Dark Tower falls flat on its face for nearly the whole runtime. No sense of aplomb in zeitgeist or story, there’s no where left to go with franchise. It’s too fast to hint toward anything significant without confusion, and never gives a good minute for true building and craftsmanship. The film literally ends on a note so quickly it’s shocking. Putting it simply: this is a waste in just about all means possible, and undoubtedly plain.