Review: THE DARK TOWER (2017) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Review: THE DARK TOWER (2017)

Roland (Idris Elba) and The Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) come face to face in THE DARK TOWER (2017)

Based on Stephen King's novel series of the same name, THE DARK TOWER tells a story about a 13-year-old kid named Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) who constantly plagued with nightmares about Roland the gunslinger (Idris Elba) and a sorcerer dubbed The Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey). Soon, his nightmares turn out to be real after he discovers a place that brought him into another dimension known as Mid World. From there, he learns about Roland looking to seek revenge against The Man in Black as well as saving the titular tower from collapsing altogether.

REVIEW: 4,250 pages. Eight books in total. It goes without saying that Stephen King's acclaimed novel series of The Dark Tower is best adapted either as a miniseries or an epic feature-length trilogy. But after a decade of development hell and false starts that jumped from J.J. Abrams to Ron Howard, the big screen version of THE DARK TOWER has finally seen the light of day.

Unfortunately, the movie is sadly condensed into a skimpy 95-minute length. To tell a multiverse story filled with world-building like THE DARK TOWER, it needs to be epic. 95 minutes just wouldn't cut it. What we have here instead is an undernourished movie that feels like a TV pilot. The plot -- adapted by Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, Anders Thomas Jensen and Nikolaj Arcel -- is disappointingly simplified into a standard "good vs. evil" variety. There is hardly a strong conflict between Roland and The Man in Black, even though Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey carry their otherwise one-dimensional roles decent enough.

Roland (Idris Elba) and Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) in THE DARK TOWER (2017)

The obvious budget constraint is also evidently shown in this movie. With a mid-range budget of US$60 million for this kind of movie, it's a shame that lots of things have to be sacrificed. No wonder the set-pieces, particularly when it takes place in the Mid-World, are sparse and lack of imagination. Even the CGI creatures are mostly obscured in the dark by dim lighting or frantic editing.

If there are any redeemable factors about this movie, the principal cast remains worthwhile. Elba has that right stoic look to play the brooding Roland. It's just too bad his tragic backstory isn't fleshed out as much as it should. McConaughey clearly has lots of fun playing the main antagonist as The Man in Black. Finally, relative newcomer Tom Taylor manages to hold his own against the two veteran actors with his sympathetic performance as Jake Chambers.

Roland (Idris Elba) shows off his gun-slinging skill in THE DARK TOWER (2017)

As for Nikolaj Arcel (2012's A ROYAL AFFAIR), his first major studio debut is a mixed bag. His direction is sometimes flat and uninspired. But other times, he did manage to show some flair in telling a massive series economically, as well as having fun dropping reference points every now and then with numerous Stephen King's works such as The Shining, Christine and ItHe also proved his worth as a reliable visual stylist, even though it was only to a certain extent. Case in point is the brief but exciting one-on-one battle between Roland and The Man in Black during the climactic finale. If only the rest of the action sequences can be as thrilling as this one.

Although there are few worthwhile moments blessed with Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey's effective performances, THE DARK TOWER is a forgettable sci-fi Western that could have been better.

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