Possible spoilers ahead!
“The Dark Tower” is based on the series of books by the guy I accidentally met at a 7-11 in downtown Boston many years ago I’m speaking of course about the one and only Stephen King. More about that meeting later, but let’s get back to the movie, shall we?
“The Dark Tower” centers around young Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), a troubled 11-year-old who has vivid dreams of an evil being called the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey), and of a heroic Gunslinger named Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), who is the only one who can stop the Man in Black. Jake also has visions of a tower that protects his world from the darkness and fire that the Man in Black plans to unleash.
On top of the dreams and visions, Jake now spends most of his time drawing pictures of what he’s seen in his dreams, and is often getting into trouble at school. Worried about him, Jake’s mother Laurie (Katheryn Winnick) and stepfather send him to a clinic upstate, but everything changes when Jake discovers that his dreams are quite real.
Due to a number or reasons I wasn’t able to see “The Dark Tower” in theaters like I’d planned, so apologies for the delay in getting this review up. Since the movie opened a few months ago, I read and saw the brutal reviews from critics, which is probably why I went in with very low expectations.
But maybe those low expectations were a good thing, because I actually liked “The Dark Tower.” However, this one of those movies that also pissed me off because there is so much wasted potential here.
“The Dark Tower” has a ton of things that could have been better. I would have loved to have seen more of the Gunslinger’s world then and now. I also wished they’s explained why the Man in Black kept referring tot he Gunslinger as “old friend.” And speaking of the evil one, I wish we could have seen more of him on earth because those few scenes were a highlight.
Now, having not read the book series or even the Marvel Comics adaptation, it is possible some or all of these complaints are addressed there. But I should note that at no point during the movie did I feel lost or anything like that. In fact, I wanted to see more, and had the movie been longer I think some of the best parts could have been developed deeper.
Instead, I feel like the filmmakers tried jamming too much stuff into a 95 minute movie when they should have just focused on a few things and a bit of world building. And there are plenty of things in “The Dark Tower” to like, if only the script had been edited a little more.
Easily the best part of “The Dark Tower” is its cast. Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey offer entertaining performances, but we never really get to know much about their characters. Elba’s Roland is your typical tortured Western hero, deciding between doing what’s right and seeking vengeance for the death of his father.
Meanwhile, McConaughey’s Man in Black is an all-powerful evil sorcerer, but one whose evilness borders on humorous and creepy rather than terrifying. But the movie doesn’t give us much in the form of details on this guy. Sometimes he’s called Walter, but we never find out why.
The big surprise of the film was Tom Taylor as Jake. He’s the viewer’s guide into this crazy world, and he’s the once we identify with the most. Taylor was particularly good when he shared the scree with Elba’s Gunslinger. While this type of mentor relationship isn’t new in movies, the two actors provided for some of the film’s best and funniest moments. The two may be from different worlds, but they have more in common than they realize.
As for the film’s action, when it’s good it’s really good. But other times, the CGI looked rushed or perhaps unfinished. The best action scenes in “The Dark Tower” are the Gunslinger’s battles with the Man in Black’s armies, those were top notch sequences. But the CGI took me out of the movie in other places.
At the end of the day, I enjoyed “The Dark Tower” more than I expected. But I’m also well aware that the film has issues from beginning to end. The sad thing is that most of the problems in this movie were fixable. All it needed was someone to take the time to flesh out the story and characters.
“The Dark Tower” final score: C
So about my encounter with Stephen King. At the time, I was attending art school near Copley Square in Boston. Each morning I’d walk past a 7-11 on the way to school from the parking garage, and sometimes I’d pop in for a breakfast sandwich or a snack for later. That morning I was walking out of the store when a gentleman on crutches approached the door. Being a nice guy, I held the door open, and he thanked me a couple of times.
The next morning at school, I was reading the newspaper when I came across the gossip page and saw a picture of the man on crutches. Under the picture it said that Stephen King had been spotted downtown for the first time since his accident. So yeah, I met him, and didn’t even realize it.