‘The Dark Tower’ Hasn’t Forgotten the Face of its Father
It’s been a decade in the making but Stephen King’s epic tale has arrived. Fans of the sweeping 8 book magnum opus have been waiting with baited breath to see if the movie will live up to the source material. To be fair, a lot of King’s works get horribly translated onto the big and small screens — see Maximum Overdrive, Sleepwalkers, or The Langoliers.
“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” Well, not exactly. While this wonderful line is regarded as one of the best lines in literature, it does not open the movie. Sadly, we don’t even get to see the imagery this evokes translated onto the screen. Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), the last Gunslinger, is locked in an eternal battle with Walter Padick (Matthew McConaughey), also known as the Man in Black. The Gunslinger and a young boy named Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), who possesses the “shine” (should be familiar to many of you!), must prevent the Man in Black from destroying the Dark Tower which is the key that holds the universe together. Good and evil collide in an ultimate battle with the fate of many worlds hanging in the balance.
Since 2011, this movie has been plagued with director and screenwriter changes on top of post production issues, thus giving many fans good cause to be nervous. How does one summarize such a massive story into roughly an hour and a half?
Arcel addressed the short runtime and other questions fans had during an AMA on Reddit. If you are a die hard fan the best way to go into this is by resetting whatever expectations you may have. This movie borrows bits from many of the books but most heavily from Book 1 (The Gunslinger) and Book 3 (The Wastelands). We have to remember it’s a loose adaptation and a sequel to the books. Sound confusing? Only if you think about it too much. If you take it just for what it is, you should be able to enjoy the ride. Let’s get to the good and the bad!
I went into this accompanied by a die hard Dark Tower fan, as well as a die hard Idris Elba fan who had never read the books. All three of us left thoroughly satisfied with the film. There are many nods to King’s other works including Cujo, IT (another King adaptation slated for September 8, 2017), and The Shining. The majority of these winks were caught by all of us.
Elba is awesome as Roland. Is he the light blue-eyed gunslinger of the books? No. But I feel he embodies the Gunslinger in all other ways: a rough, tired poet who has gone thru Hell. The way he carries himself just says Roland to me. The action scenes are fast paced and exciting.
A minor complaint: some of the special effects aren’t stellar, but it doesn’t ruin the movie by any means. The chemistry/bond between Roland and Jake feels genuine, albeit a bit unearned and rushed. The length of the film seems to be one of the biggest complaints I heard post viewing, and I wholeheartedly agree. The world building needed to tell a story this grand just doesn’t happen.
The movie definitely could have added an extra 30-plus minutes to accomplish a more rounded out feeling of who we are meeting, and why things are the way they are between the characters. It also would have been nice to see more of these other worlds that Roland is protecting. I don’t think anyone would have minded that at all.
Minor spoiler but fairly easy to determine from the trailer — Jake is the main character. He becomes wanted by The Man in Black for his shining ability. When this loner kid who is dealing with his world being turned upside down meets the Gunslinger he has been seeing in his dreams and drawing in his room. The story really picks up from there. The two of them then set out on the journey to bring down Walter.
Speaking of The Man in Black, McConaughey doesn’t seem to embody his literary counterpart, but I enjoyed his portrayal. He is quiet and calm, yet menacing. His main goal is to bring down the Dark Tower through the use of the psychic abilities of children from various worlds that he has captured, but not without taunting and trying to destroy Roland in the process.
The movie isn’t perfect, but it is fun. It has heart and humor, and some very familiar elements. More importantly, it feels like a Stephen King movie to me. Again, if you go into this understanding that this movie is not a page-to-screen adaptation, pair it with a love for the King and some fast gunslinging, you’ll enjoy this film. Maybe next time, we’ll get a longer film that’s actually rated R. I’m sure we all would be saying “thankee sai.”