The Dark Tower 🤷‍♀️ Film Review

Written by Thelonia

A Stephen King property that wouldn't be one of the top 5 people would recommend to you, the "Dark Tower" series still seemed ripe for Hollywood adaptation. But upon its release, it was met with a widespread “meh” from critics. But is it as bad (or boring) as all that?

I mean, real quick, no.

I’ll admit I know absolutely nothing about the original books, and the only real reason I saw this adaptation in the first place was Idris Elba, but while it had a lot of plot involved and it is rather cookie cutter in terms of coming-of-age stories, it’s not as mind-numbingly boring as some would have you believe.

The plot revolves around Jake Chambers, a young teen from New York who has dreams of a Dark Tower and a Man in Black, as well as rat people wearing human skin. When these dreams begin to crossover into his life, he realizes his dreams aren’t as wild as he believed.

There's a reason the promotional material basically just 100% focused on letting you know that Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey are in it. That’s because the kid that serves as our main character is kind of a non-entity. I have already forgotten his name, and he is basically just a magical mcguffin that gets Idris Elba motivated to get back to saving the world (because otherwise he was just going to keep wandering the desert and looking cool forever?). The entire plot tension of the movie is generated by the relationship between Elba and McConaughey’s characters (McConaughey killed Elba’s dad and Elba’s stilled pissed about it - also Elba has a Bella Swan-like immunity to McConaughey’s powers and McConaughey’s pissed about that), and Jake (played by Tom Taylor, who is fine) is just there as an audience stand-in. Which might have been more motivational for me if I was also a teenage boy, but I am not, and so was kind of eh on him.

It doesn’t help that Jake’s human connections get axed very early on in the film: Jake’s mom (played by Viking’s Katheryn Winnick) gets burned alive by McConaughey after Jake’s stepdad gets unceremoniously killed off in a split second (despite the fact that being cursed to “not breathe” would not immediately kill you but whatever it takes to keep the plot moving I guess). They are Jake’s only real connections to the human world (apart from his best friend who kind of just...vanishes after the early part of the movie), and so afterwards there aren’t really many stakes to Jake’s life. There’s also no surprise when he teams up with Elba (who I guess is his new Dad now).

The whole plot is pretty standard for a teen sci-fi novel, but has enough money thrown at it that it manages some pretty decent special effects (though some in the climactic battle between McConaughey’s character, whose name is Walter by the way, you need to know that, and Elba come off as hilarious in their hand-waviness). Handsdown the best parts of the film come from fish-out-of-water scenes with Elba in modern New York. If that were a larger part of the film, it’s be an instant classic only for that. But sadly those moments of levity and genuine humor are pretty isolated in what is otherwise a pretty grim movie about stopped the world from exploding (for the millionth time). Elba is, as always, a compelling hero, and McConaughey’s character makes for a fun villain even if his villainy is kind of just “destroy the world for the fun of it.”

Idris Elba is the best thing about the movie, but he generally is in anything he’s in. If you can stomach a sci-fi fantasy story that's pretty paint by the numbers except for a few exceptional scenes, then check out The Dark Tower. If not, then you might want to sit this one out.

The Dark Tower is currently in theaters.

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