A Boring And Meandering Plot Make Sure That The Dark Tower Crumbles

When I finished watching Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief back in February 2010, I was crushed. One of my favorite books, The Lightning Thief, had come to the big screen in a big-budget live-action movie and it was terrible. In taking the source material to the screen, they’d make drastic alterations to the book, which isn’t inherently bad of course, but the changes they made here were just awful and somehow the execution of characters and plot details from the book were even worse. All those years of anticipation for a proper movie were answered by this trash heap of a feature film, one that seemed far more intent on kick-starting the next big fantasy movie franchise like Harry Potter than creating an actually good movie.

Though I haven’t read the various Dark Tower Stephen King has penned, I know they have a massive fanbase and I’m sure those fans who see this tedious film adaptation of their beloved books will feel the same way I did after witnessing the cinematic desecration of The Lightning Thief all those years ago. The Nikolaj Arcel feature film adaptation of The Dark Tower, unlike the fantasy books that apparently take place almost entirely in a mystical realm called Mid-World, centers on a young boy named Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) that resides in a normal version of New York City. He keeps having these dreams of a Gunslinger and a Man In Black and everyone around him, including his mom, thinks he’s crazy thanks to these visions.

Turn out, though, that Jake is more accurate than his friends and family believe, there is, in fact, a Gunslinger named Roland (Idris Elba) who has sworn vengeance upon The Man In Black (Matthew McConaughey) in the realm known as Mid-World. He travels to this domain by portal wherein he quickly meets up with Roland. While these two get acquainted, The Man In Black learns of Jake entering his world and decides to hunt him down. As for Jake and Roland, the first half of the movie, after centering way too much time on Jake’s home life, centers on them stumbling through the woods while the second half of the movie detours into the duo going to New York City where they try to stop The Man In Black once and for all.

This one, in case you can’t tell, has an incredibly scattered narrative that direly lacks propulsion. Once we get into the domain of Mid-World, you’d think there’d be some kind of goal Jake and Roland would be driving towards in the plot, but Roland just has this vague notion of revenge against The Man In Black that’s hard to get invested in while Jake has little to no personal connections to the realm of Mid-World. There’s no emotional grounding for these two’s journey and, even putting that crucial flaw aside, the time spent in Mid-World is a total snooze. A badly filmed run-in with a poorly designed monster, monotonous exposition, and actors walking around on cheap-looking sets make up this section of the movie.

But before we even get to Mid-World, we have to get to know Jake Chambers, our lead character for some reason. Jake is supposed to function as an audience surrogate character but he’s a totally dull lead character for this feature, he makes Agent John Myers from the first Hellboy movie look like Chris Tucker in The Fifth Element by comparison in terms of liveliness. I don’t like to rag on kid actors too much, but I will note that Tom Taylor’s line delivers are by and large flat and devoid of personality while the writing of the character is a hodgepodge of every trouble kid protagonist in existence. There are no real identifying traits to this character as he’s written yet Jake Chambers is very much supposed to be the glue that holds the entire movie together, a decision that does help to explain why the whole film turned out so lackluster.

Once he leaves his New York surroundings, Jake gets paired up with Roland whose played by Idris Elba, who is clearly trying as hard as he can to do something with this dreadful material he’s been handed. Elba easily makes Roland a convincing warrior character, I just wish the screenplay (which has four writers attached to it, one of whom is the infamous Akiva Goldsman) gave him something remotely interesting to do. The few times Roland gets to leap into action we just get some monotonously choreographed and generically filmed fight scenes and the second half of the movie, where Jake and Roland go to New York, has Elba playing a version of the Elf/Enchanted routine of a mystical person coming into contact with normal everyday human objects like sugar and hot dogs to supposed comedic effect. The gags are just as badly handled as Roland’s few action moments while the rest of the movie just has the character either moping or dropping badly written exposition. What a waste of Idris Elba.

Matthew McConaughey gets a little bit more to do as the baddie, including the one fun moment of the entire movie where The Man In Black surprises Jake’s parents when he gets home but otherwise his antagonist is just an overly powerful baddie whose motivations remain completely hazy. That obvious lack of effort put into defining both Roland and The Man In Black really does serve as an encapsulation of the laziness that suffocates The Dark Tower, it’s a movie that just can’t be bothered to do anything. We’ve got a plot that meanders, good actors (including Jackie Earl Haley in a throwaway role as an evil henchman) just looking tired while the subpar cinematography and camera work evoke thoughts of “penny-pinching” instead of thoughts of “fantasy adventure”. Let me put it this way; if Idris Elba as a cowboy is fighting Matthew McConaughey as basically scenery-chewing Satan, and I’m fighting to keep myself from taking a nap, something has gone seriously haywire. Come to think of it, the phrase “Something has gone seriously haywire” would also be a great encapsulation of the shockingly lazy movie The Dark Tower.

  • Caught this last night with some friends. I kept falling asleep for the first forty minutes. My god was this boring. And the movie ends with the two of them eating hot dogs and going in some random building to jump through a portal. I haven’t read the books either but something about that just really seemed like a fuck you moment to fans of the book. Here, you got your stupid movie, here are some beloved characters eating hot dogs and buggering off in New York, now go fuck yourselves.

    • exorcissy72

      I haven’t seen the movie, I’m not sure if my fragile heart can handle it. but I’ve read through the books twice. And yes that ending is indeed a HUGE fuck you to the fans of the book. Which negates the entire point of the first book, Roland’s character arc for the whole series AND the character of Roland.

    • thesplitsaber

      ‘Here, you got your stupid movie, here are some beloved characters eating hot dogs and buggering off in New York, now go fuck yourselves.’

      Considering how long this has been in development for its entirely possible the studio did just want it to get finished cheaply so they could move on. See also John Carter (Because Audiences Hate Princesses And Mars).

      • Pardon me for sounding like a dissenting Daniel, but that’s not quite why this one got made. It’s actually kind of the opposite; instead of the rights being about to expire, Sony nabbed the rights back in mid-2015 as they were trying to get a bunch of big franchises going to boost up their bottom line. Thus, the film got rushed into production so it could come out into summer 2017.

        • thesplitsaber

          I feel like ive been hearing about for 10 years. It was gonna just be an hbo show (pre game of thrones maybe?), then Frank Darabont was going to make it, then Ron Howard was going to make it, at one point Hugh Jackman might have even been attached as Roland?

    • Having read the books and seen the movie, I completely disagree as to how readers of the books should feel. I think it captured the spirit of the books, if not the content, very well and was made by people who liked the books, even if they didn’t do the greatest job.

      But then, I also liked the movie. So we clearly disagree about everything.

      • Certainly you have a more founded authority to speak on behalf of the books. Your response is one I’ve actually seen among the book fans and that’s great that you guys were able to enjoy the film for what it was. For me, strictly looking at this as a film, it did nothing for me.

  • So…they turned The Dark Tower into Neverwhere?

  • Dissenting opinion: I liked the movie. it’s not the greatest thing ever made, and it’s nor really an adaptation. But that was Roland and the Man in Black up there on the screen, and the movie engaged me for the most part. It’s an old fashioned b movie, which is fine since the books, under it all, are kind of pulpy, a lot of fun but not King’s best work overall. I am glad this exists, even if I wish it had been a true adaptation.