Stephen King fans have been eagerly awaiting his series of Dark Tower novels arriving on the big screen. Most of his other heralded works have already made it before the cameras and some of them in multiple iterations. The challenge with bringing forth this particular series is said to be the dense nature of its material. And now that we have a cinematic version of The Dark Tower, I can report a number of decisions made in making it happen are indeed dense. That’s definitely not a compliment.
The picture is an abridged and often aimless experience begging for more backstory and clarity. It’s led by uninspired performances and routine shoot-em-up interruptions. Tom Taylor stars as Jake, a New York City preteen who has vivid dreams about a Man in Black trying to destroy Earth and a gunslinger trying to stop him. Jake’s family and friends think he’s coo coo, but the kid has some legit psychic power. There is a Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) otherwise known as Walter and he is trying to take over Earth’s domain and the domains of unseen others. There is a gunslinger (Idris Elba) otherwise known as Roland and he teams up with Jake to stop the apocalypse. They also share some Daddy issues.
What follows is a bit of a head scratcher. The Dark Tower hints at a much larger universe that at least sounds kinda interesting. Yet it’s not shown. It suggests a potentially action packed past for Roland, but that’s it. I get that the idea of the movie is to set up future chapters, but it’s hard to anticipate further ones when the first is so unfulfilling.
Taylor’s lead performance is rather dull. Elba has a physical presence, but there’s no meat on the bones of what should be a far more captivating figure. McConaughey can be a terrific actor, but that’s not what we witness. His Man in Black is meant (I think) to be a scary one. McConaughey doesn’t seem to get that. His level of menace displayed here is about equal to his Lincoln commercial work.
The Dark Tower has a 95 minute length that suggests even its makers knew they had a losing hand. It represents a limp start for a building of worlds. And it’s one that may never seen the light because this fails to get it off the ground.
*1/2 (out of four)