by Paislee House, Film Critic
So many of Stephen King’s stories have been turned into movies. Most of them have been unsuccessful and “The Dark Tower” doesn’t stray from the pack. As a sci-fi western, “The Dark Tower” had tremendous potential to appeal to fans of all genres and ages. Despite this, the crew opted for cliché dialogue and visual effects suited for a B-movie.
“The Dark Tower” is based on a series of books created by Stephen King starting with “The Gunslinger.” The series consists of 8 books and is one of King’s most intricate works. “The Dark Tower” film is supposed to serve as a sequel to events that have occurred in the books. For fans of the book, “The Dark Tower” might be satisfactory and make sense. As someone who has not read the books, Arcel’s sequel to the series seems empty and lacking in terms of storytelling, leaving no room for complex characters viewers could actually care about.
Additionally, the characters’ stories feel like a hodgepodge of familiar elements from similar works, and the overall setup of events feels predictable. At no point was I wondering what would happen next because the movie takes no opportunity to innovate the classic good versus evil story. Though a PG-13 rating and a young protagonist isn’t indicative of a teen target audience, the film feels as though that’s who it is meant for. The tone is childish and hard to take seriously.
One of the worst aspects of the film was the choice to cast Matthew McConaughey as the villain Walter O’Dim, aka The Man in Black. McConaughey has had a rollercoaster of a career. It started high with Dazed and Confused and fell during the early 2000s only to bounce back again in the last few years. As Walter, McConaughey is comical in an unintentional way. He delivers his lines in a strange, wannabe menacing way that is flimsy at best. The Man in Black is a classic evil character and McConaughey just doesn’t fit the role. It’s not entirely his fault: his costumes make him look like some sort of emo cowboy, which only strengthens the humorous delivery of his lines.
Opposite McConaughey, Idris Elba makes do with what he’s given as Roland Deschain. Roland is your run-of-the-mill, loner-cowboy type. He has a haunting past and is on a quest to avenge his father. Elba makes Roland believable and likable even when it’s hard to get past the terrible dialogue. Granted, there are some charming scenes that take place with Jake, the young hero, and Roland (who is unfamiliar with earthly customs) as they navigate New York and try to save the world from darkness.
With its predictable plot and characters, “The Dark Tower” kicks up the awul another notch by providing some of the worst, most anticlimactic actions sequences I’ve seen in awhile. As a sci-fi western, you’d expect “The Dark Tower” to be fun and feature action that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Contrary to genre expectations, I found myself uninterested any time a monster appeared or a fight broke out amongst characters.
On top of all the dull action sequences are the terrible visual effects. There are many instances when I thought to myself, “what was this film’s budget?” because the visuals were so poorly done. At one point in the film, as Roland sits near a creek to wash his face the backdrop looks like a painted scene, like the backdrop to a theater play. For the record, “The Dark Tower” had a budget of $60 million, which is comparable to the budget of movies like “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” or “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones,” so it is possible to make visually-appealing action on that budget.
“The Dark Tower” is a film too poorly written to take itself so seriously. The boring action, unoriginal storyline and bad visual effects only succeed at creating a snoozefest of a movie.