Seen September 2nd
There is a term in Hollywood known as “Development Hell” where a film that is eagerly anticipated keeps having problems getting started. Sometimes this can hold a film up for years, decades. The Dark Tower has been in development hell since 2007… it may have needed a few extra years to work out all the kinks.
Based on the book series by Stephen King, The Dark Tower tells the story of Jake Chambers (Played by Tom Taylor) who keeps having dreams about a dark tower that will end the universe, dreams that his mother and step-father ignore because they believe it’s merely trauma from his father dying. Yes, I said merely, because as far as I can tell neither parent actually gives a shit about their child’s trauma. Of course, his dreams are proven to actually be visions (Known as “The Shine”… Get it?) and he is transported to an apocalyptic world where he stumbles into a battle between The Gunslinger (Played expertly by Idris Elba) and the Man In Black (Played…. uh… Matthew McConaughey plays him, I guess). It’s a battle for the universe as we know it and would be so epic if they weren’t trying to compact a 224-page book into a 90-minute film.
Let me just state right now that I have not read the 8 book series that this film is based on, not even Gunslinger which I’m going to guess is the specific book that this specific movie is based on. Before anyone gets upset by that and accuses me of not knowing about the series before going into this, don’t bother. I should not have to read the book before seeing the movie. If the movie does not work on its own and I need supplemental material in order to enjoy it, then the movie is bad and it should feel bad. Adaptation is not an easy thing to do, but it should not feel this bad. I could tell large chunks of the story were missing, or at least it felt like they were. We, the audience, get no real information about the Man in Black, the Gunslinger get’s maybe one scene of self-reflection but that’s it. Jake is basically there to be human and to take part in a fun scene where the Gunslinger tries sugar for the first time. It’s just so rushed that when the ending comes, it’s obscenely anti-climactic. I expected a bang, I got a whimper.
Matthew McConaughey is not good in this. I mean, personally, I’m not a fan of him in general but he has his uses, he can be a tolerable lead when given the right material and plays off his natural southern charm. He is not a good villain, not in this. For those, like me, who didn’t read the books he is basically Killgrave from Jessica Jones, just not British. Maybe David Tennant spoiled me but if you’re playing someone with the power to basically tell people to stop breathing, which instantly makes them stop breathing, I need you to be as charismatic as Tennant was at a bare minimum. He isn’t, it’s laughable that he’s evaded The Gunslinger so long because he is, frankly, pathetic. Idris Elba is fine though, he actually feels like someone who is battle worn and wanting revenge. He also seems like he gives a shit, which is another thing I do not get from McConaughey.
The effects in this are hit and miss. There are some effects that work wonderfully well and have a great impact… and then someone will be hit by a car and fly around like a ragdoll that’s obviously CGI done by someone who just got a new version of Cinema 4D and want’s to test out some fun new features. It’s not good, especially for a movie. On TV this might’ve worked, but in a film? It’s just unacceptable.
Also, enough with the King references. I’m not sure if they’re in the book, but they are fucking painful in the film. Things like “the Shine” (I wonder how many takes have them just saying “The Shining”), a dog that looks obviously like Cujo, a theme park with a giant sign “Pennywise”. We get it, you’re a Stephen King movie. Fantastic, stop reminding me of better Stephen King movies. It maybe worked in the books, it doesn’t on film. It’s painful and actually get’s irritating after a while. I’m damn certain there are other King references in this film I didn’t spot, but the ones that I did were so painfully on the nose that it hurt.
This film is one that clearly was hacked down dramatically in order to fit a 90 minute runtime, while also setting up for a sequel (Which isn’t going to happen, it’s not even made as much as The Emoji Movie… which hasn’t even come to Australia yet, I’m excited for how awful that one’ll be). What this film needed was… well, to not be a film. This is clearly something that HBO or Netflix should’ve bought and turned into a TV series. With 9 books, that’s 9 seasons of TV right there and we could actually explore this world properly, give every moment the gravitas it clearly deserves, maybe even hire a better actor to play the villain. If they do that, maybe there’ll be a good adaptation of this in the future. Instead, right now, we’re stuck with half a movie that’s got half a good cast and half an idea what it want’s to be. It’s not awful, it’s just disappointing