After many, many years of development hell, this Stephen King adaptation finally arrives and… it ain’t that bad!
After Jake Chambers lost his father in a fire, he starts to see visions of another world in his dreams, visions that coincide with earthquakes. The visions show a tower in the centre of multiple plains of reality, a Man in Black set on destroying it and unleashing great evil on all the worlds, and a Gunslinger; a mythical soldier meant to defend it. It isn’t long before Jake realises his visions are a reality.
Never before has the term “based on” felt more apt with a book adaptation. Stephen King’s story spans eight books, and the movie has been through development hell to get where it is now. Originally, director J.J. Abrams was set to direct, then it was passed on to Ron Howard (who would become one of the producers) only to finally fall on the shoulders of Nikolaj Arcel (whose biggest directorial credit is A Royal Affair). The film does feel like the product of many rewrites, visions and reshoots (three million dollars in reshoots, to be precise).
But this shouldn’t be held over The Dark Tower, which apparently it has been with critics panning it immensely.
The film’s editing is little to be desired however, choppy and discordant with scenes lasting mere moments, less than a minute, as the screenplay lurches violently to accommodate different realities simultaneously. Our villain, Matthew McConaughey, often has a scene spliced into the action to simply elaborate the dastardly scheme he has in store for our heroes. Here’s an idea: don’t show that twenty seconds of another location. Just, let the characters breath and keep the viewer intrigued. It feels like the screenplay writers didn’t want to alienate the audience.
But while the editing is pretty poor, I enjoyed the film for the majority. McConaughey and Idris Elba are magnetic personalities and their performances are kinda silly but also earnest when they need to be. These two performers are excellent; they can carry films on their own, and though The Dark Tower scrambles for relevance, the two of them look invested and keep you interested.
The film has a sort of early 90s action adventure vibe. A kid is vulnerable and alone, questioning reality in ways adults cannot comprehend and is whisked into another reality to become a sidekick for a bad ass warrior. The film has a pulpy enjoyment factor that comes when you don’t over-analyze or over-think what you are watching. Tom Taylor plays Jake, and for his first major motion picture performance, he was a decent fit for the movie.
There’s some pretty cool action sequences too in the second and third acts with Idris proving how skilled his Gunslinger character is. Guns forged from the legendary sword Excaibur? That’s pretty awesome.
So while its editing isn’t great and it comes up a little short in important “world building” elements (concepts and characters are just sort of… there, without introduction) the film isn’t that bad! Maybe not a cinema worthy film, but definitely a rental.