'The Dark Tower' review: Film may disappoint Stephen King fans, but kids will love it
THE DARK TOWER
- Starring: Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor
- Directed by: Nikolaj Arcel
- Duration: 1 hour, 35 minutes
There are two ways to look at the long-awaited film adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower.
It can be easily dismissed as a movie that will disappoint King’s fans; it can just as easily be embraced as a movie kids will like.
The story is told from the point of view of an adolescent boy, Jake (Tom Taylor). Jake has terrible nightmares and is compelled to draw the people and places who populate his bad dreams; his mom and his stepfather believe Jake has psychological problems, perhaps as a result of his father’s death.
What Jake sketches are people from a parallel universe — the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) and the last gunslinger, Roland Deschain (Idris Elba). The Man in Black is evil personified. He hopes to bring down the Dark Tower, an edifice that guards the edges of the universe from being overrun by darkness/hellfire/terrible monsters.
And the last gunslinger hopes to stop the Man in Black from his wicked goal.
Jake turns out to have particular psychic abilities that interest the Man in Black. He needs the pure mind of a child to bring down the tower, and Jake might be the kid to do that job.
Can Jake and the last gunslinger prevail, or will they will be overwhelmed by the malevolence of the Man in Black?
The Dark Tower has a Harry-Potter-in-the-Wild-West vibe that’s none too deep but easy enough to like. The film’s energy never flags; Jake runs from bad guys, finds a portal from New York to Mid-World, encounters the last gunslinger and battles monsters. There are some solid action scenes in The Dark Tower — the last gunslinger blasting his way out of trouble, for example, or a village of peaceful psychics overrun by terrible creatures — but the movie never rises about the level of adolescent entertainment.
For all that, the performances are fun to watch. McConaughey does evil with relish, gleefully commanding death — “Stop breathing!” — as it suits him, and putting a spin on every sibilant he speaks to sound like a sssssnake.
Elba is impressive as the last gunslinger; he can make firing a pistol look like ballet. The actor gets the only laughs in the story as well, mostly from his fish-out-of-water impressions of New York City.
Although Stephen King fans may be disappointed that so much has had to be left out of the storytelling, they will be visually rewarded — there are many sly references to other of King’s works half-hidden throughout the scenery.
How The Dark Tower movie worked out to be something for 12-year-old kids remains a mystery. It’s likely that much of Stephen King’s magic on the page, engaging the reader’s imagination as it does, evaporates in translation.