Movie review: The Dark Tower

Starring: Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor
Director: Nikolaj Arcel
Released: August 4, 2017
Rating: PG-13

“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”

The opening line of The Gunslinger, the first book in Stephen King’s eight novel opus The Dark Tower, is referenced in the theatrical release based on the series, but if you have read the books then you need to enter into the film with an open mind. The Dark Tower the movie, while finally bringing the eternal conflict between Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger of Gilead and Walter O’Dim, also known as the man in black to the big screen, is not an adaptation of Volume one, or even an adaptation of the series but more so a mesh of elements from all of the books combined into a new tale about the battle over the fate of the tower.

The Dark Tower stands at the center of everything, it holds all worlds, including our own together, while keeping eternal darkness and evil demonic beings out, the man in black hopes to destroy the tower by using children with special powers. Enter Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) a young, troubled New Yorker haunted by visions he doesn’t quite understand but that he knows are more than just bad dreams. He uses these visions to find a portal into Mid World, a reality other than our own, in a a time since the world has moved on where he meets and joins up with Roland (Idris Elba). They set out on a journey to find the man in black (Matthew McConaughey) who in turn is hunting for Jake who he feels will be the key to finally bringing down the tower. Eventually the journey crosses back and forth between Mid World, and our own present day New York City until the Gunslinger and his apprentice come face to face with the man in black for an epic showdown.

If you are a fan of King, you will enjoy the many Easter eggs placed throughout the film, Jake’s power is actually “the shine” from one of King’s most famous books/films The Shining, at one point the two set up camp in the woods by what appears to be an abandoned amusement park called Pennywise, the name of the demon from IT, another of King’s books soon getting it’s own theatrical release. There are many other references as well and I’m sure there were even more that I may have missed.

While I have started the book series twice, I have yet to finish it, and recently started again for a third time with the intent that this will be the time I complete the journey, I have made it about halfway through the epic, and what I can say is that the film, while enjoyable has left so much out as the tale from start to finish is more than can be condensed into a two hour film. There is no Susannah, there are no lobstrosities, there is no ka tet. as a fan of the book series, I would love to see it get the treatment it deserves, though for that to happen, I feel it would have to done in the same manner as Game Of Thrones, and get picked up by HBO, Netflix, or the like and release each book over the course of several seasons. That said, I feel those who are unfamiliar with the books will be treated to a fantasy tale combining magic, action, adventure, and more while if a fan of the book goes in with an open mind, they should not walk out disappointed. McConaughey is perfect as the man in black, Elba was a pleasant surprise as the gunslinger, the characters were well represented on the screen and the direction and action was well paced. I have read speculation online that the movie is actually the ninth volume in the series, a continuation of sorts which is an interesting theory, and without dropping any spoilers, the ending does leave open the possibility of a follow up film being made, I just fear the box office returns may close that door which is a shame. If you’re a fan of the books, or just a fan of fantasy, adventure films in general, then The Dark Tower is a journey worth taking.

Have you seen the film? Did you enjoy the review? Please leave your thoughts in the comments.