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The Dark Tower is a long in development adaption of the Stephen King novel, directed By Nicholaj Arcel, starring Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, and Tom Taylor in the famous roles. The Dark Tower is an involved series of eight books, written by King, which incorporates films from multiple genres, including western, fantasy, science fiction and horror. Which results in a movie that has a run time of 90 minutes, which basically sums up most of the problems of this film.
The Gunslinger (Idris Elba) is in an eternal battle with the Man in Black (McConaughey), who keeps trying to destroy the Dark Tower, a mythical building that supports all realities. A year after the death of his father, Jake Chambers (Taylor) is having psychic visions about the battles between the Gunslinger and Man in Black, and it turns out this power can be used to help topple the tower. The Man in Black pursues Jake so that he can do his bidding, so Jake and the Gunslinger must team up in order to stop the Man in Black from destroying the universe.
The key word to best describe this film is rushed. There is a lot of history that took place between the Gunslinger and The Man in Black that we never saw. Maybe if we did see all of the torture that the Man in Black put the Gunslinger through that led up to this epic battle, the audience actually could have cared that it happened. Jake had aggressive visions that caused The Man in Black’s relentless pursuit of him across multiple worlds; maybe if we saw more of those visions and how it affected his daily life and surroundings, the audience would have been more impressed when he finally got a chance to use it to save the world. The Man in Black, the villain himself, has a power that is seemingly indestructible, he seems impossible to defeat. He has looked for several kids who have had Jake’s power and managed to destroy many lives in the process. Again, something we don’t see very much of.
Another problem with The Dark Tower, not only not enough setup for the characters, but it is not very clear what The Gunslinger and Jake are fighting for. I didn’t read the book, and I’m pretty sure most of the audience haven’t either. The movie does not really due to a good job of illustrating what effect the falling of the tower will do to mankind. With no stakes involved, this results in is not getting the feeling that our heroes are in any real danger. And a lot of filler in a brief 90-minute film.
The most disappointing aspect of The Dark Tower is how much wasted potential there seems to be here. The Gunslinger, The Man in Black, and Jake are some really interesting characters with some really colorful backstories. There were so many opportunities to showcase some interesting imagery, explore how great and powerful the Gunslingers really were, how evil the villain is and how important Jake’s power is to saving the world. But in lack of a better term, we saw cliffs notes of all of it.
As far as the performances go, Elba and McConaughey were serviceable, mainly because they were not given very much to do. Both are unbelievably charismatic, so they have no trouble holding the audience’s attention, but neither has roles that give them a chance to shine. Tom Taylor as Jake is the standout, mainly because he is the focus of the film. He manages to give an effective, yet subdued performance. His character does have a potential to be annoying and over the top, but he manages to be charming and the only one of the three leads to evoke some semblance of sympathy.
The Dark Tower is not bad, its’ just mediocre. There are so many opportunities for interesting world building and characters that are pushed to the side in favor of a PG-13 rating and sanitized action for more worldwide appeal. It’s a rental at most.