It’s been 8 days since I saw “The Dark Tower.
I liked chunks of what I saw.
I still am not sure what this movie was trying to show.
(there may be some small spoilers; I will try and not to ruin any big plot points, though)
“The Dark Tower” is about Roland Deschain, The Last Gunslinger from Mid-World- a combination Law Man, Paladin, and Protector – as he searches for The Man In Black, a combination sorcerer, quasi-immortal, and demon(?). The Man In Black destroyed almost all of the Gunslingers and is now focused on bringing down the nexus of all time and space: The Dark Tower.
That’s what the trailers and descriptions led you to believe the movie was about.
Instead, the movie is about 11-year-old Jake Chambers, a brilliant New York kid who is suffering from increasingly menacing nightmares about “a Man in Black”, a “Tower”, a “Guy with Guns”, and “Darkness and Fire”. His non-believing parents, weary of these nightmares and the multitudes of psychiatrists that they’ve sent Jake to, decide to send him to a weekend “school”, headed by *cue dramatic music* The Sombra Corporation. Members from this school show up to escort Jake away, Jake sees these people for who they really are, and runs.
This ultimately leads him to a sullen, bitter wreck of a man named Roland. He is the Last Gunslinger but doesn’t exactly treat Jake very Gunslinger-ly… unless you count how he: nearly threw Jake off of a cliff, nearly shot Jake, and basically treated Jake like a diseased spot on his arm for about 45 of the 60 or so minutes that they were together. They go through many trials, in varying degrees, before catching up with the subject of Jake’s nightmares, and Roland’s more-selfish-than-the-book goal: The Man In Black.
Tom Taylor is Jake Chambers. Jake, in the movie, is tired of the nightmares, tired of his parents (especially his mom’s new boyfriend) and others not believing him about his nightmares, and increasingly tired of Roland’s moping. I liked Taylor’s Jake, although his hesitations nearly cost quite a few people.
Idris Elba is Roland. Elba honestly could have carried this movie by himself. I am not a fan of how Roland was written for this movie but I am a big fan of how Elba portrayed him. Elba makes it very believable when Roland shows up in New York, needing medical treatment, completely uninformed about ‘life on Earth’ (if available, look up the scene where Roland and Jake are on a city bus…). Even in Roland’s early emotional states, you can still feel the power of a Gunslinger radiating off of him, and I think that’s a testament to Elba’s acting.
Matthew McConaughey stole the show as Walter O’ Dim, The Man In Black. This is how I pictured “Randall Flagg” (an alter ego from many levels of the Tower) in the books. While McConaughey is not monster-scary, he is definitely intimidating, in the “I can kill you in 8 different ways, before you blink once” way (spoiler: he wounded or killed people in at least 6 ways). Whenever he is in Mid-World, people mention him in hushed tones; his followers cannot look him in the eyes, minus a very few in very-high-ranking positions. He is the Big Bad Evil that many horror movies would like to have.
I was about to type “Here is the problem with this movie”… but ‘problem’ is singular.
Here are the problems with this movie:
- What in the Mid-World is the plot?!? Is Roland trying to save the Dark Tower or stop the Man In Black? Is Roland trying to kill the Man In Black? Is Jake trying to find Roland and the Man In Black? It is not easy to figure out the main thread of the movie.
- The scenery aimed with its heart (this is not a problem)…. The Mid-World settings are pretty nice. The Mohaine Desert looks pretty authentic, if not a bit alien. The Forest looks and feels like what I internally pictured the forest from “The Gunslinger” to be (where Jake is enthralled by the Speaking Ring Succubus). Even Algun Siento looked pretty close to the book descriptions.
- … but the descriptions aimed with its eyes and forgot the faces of their fathers (this is a problem). There are at least 10 times in this movie where some important character, place, or incident happens, but there’s no explanation of who the characters are, what happened, or where it happened. For example (SPOLIER BELOW):
Jake had dreamed of the above house, drew it, and went looking for it. Once inside, the house tried to, for lack of a clearer understanding, eat him. Jake escapes…. but there’s no mention of how he escaped, and only a near throwaway line or 2 from McConaughey later on about what happened. There’s no descriptions on what the opening 3 minutes of the movie is about or what that place is; it’s implied, through later scenes, why the kids at the beginning are there and how they got there but that is a big problem point if you’ve never read the books, especially the last 3.
4. This was a “Twinner” movie.This was an alternate Tower-level movie, I think. There was tons of homages to other Stephen King books (such as the woman walking the Cujo-like dog) but they, like the movie, were scattered all over the place. A description that I heard, and later saw, seems pretty accurate: “this felt like a FanFic movie with A+ celebrities”.
C to C-
Maybe my expectations were too high. I don’t hate “The Dark Tower”. Color me “disappointingly confused”. If you want an action/fantasy movie, this movie would work. If I hadn’t read the book series multiple times, I’d say that the movie was a slight disappointment. The action scenes were pretty fun, the 3 main characters did a pretty good job with what they had to work with, and the scenery was nice. However, you’re going to have problems trying to figure out who a lot of the side characters are (for example: Susan Delgado is in the movie… but I did not know that until I looked up the cast on IMDB and Wikipedia), where they’re at, and why most of them are where they are. I just hope that the planned TV series cleans up the movie writing big time…. if the series still happens. The Dark Movie was not the start to make, despite the efforts of the scenery, plus McConaughey, Elba, and Taylor.