Adaptation reduces Stephen King series to rubble
A few years ago there was talk of Ron Howard directing a big screen adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower. The film was to be an introduction to the Dark Tower universe, to be followed by a TV series, and Javier Bardem was cast as Roland Deschain the Gunslinger, the main protagonist of King’s multinovel series.
The main players were subsequently switched out for Idris Elba in the Roland role, and a relative novice in Nikolaj Arcel (A Royal Affair) for director, and the film’s budget was reduced to $60 million, a price you would normally see for a Hollywood rom-com, not for the launch of what was proposed to be an epic, blockbuster franchise.
All of the uncertainty and delays that plagued the production are immediately apparent in the final product. This movie is a catastrophe, and a complete slight to fans of the King books, fans of Matthew McConaughey (playing the Man in Black here), and fans of science fiction/fantasy. Oh hell, this thing slights everybody.
It looks like a low-level episode of Dr. Who, the really schlocky 1970s Dr. Who. You get the sense watching it that they used the same sound stage for all of their interiors and just repainted shit. The CGI is terrible, the pacing is ridiculously, unnecessarily fast, and the plotting is confusing for those who haven’t read the books. I haven’t read the books and, after watching this, I don’t really care to.
The story involves some kid named Jake (Tom Taylor), a sad teenager who is gifted with “the Shine,” the psychic powers Danny had in King’s The Shining. He dreams of another world where there is a Dark Tower that acts as some sort of barrier between other dimensions, protecting planets like Earth from evil. He also dreams of a gunslinger (Elba) who is trying to kill the Man in Black. No, it’s not Johnny Cash. McConaughey’s character is some sort of devil man whose intention is to hunt people with the Shine because their brains harness the power to shoot laser beams into the Dark Tower, thus destroying it and releasing goofy CGI monsters upon the Earth.
Tom winds up traveling to something called the Mid World, where he joins forces for a brief hike with Roland before winding up back on Earth in present day New York City for some kind of apocalyptic battle.
You can go ahead and badmouth me all you want if I got any of this wrong, but I assure you that’s the best I could gather from this hackneyed, rushed, underwhelming production. When considering the apparent scope of the novels, it’s a bit of a shocker that the film clocks in at 95 minutes. There is a definite sense that a lot of backstory and exposition has been removed in order to dumb things down and streamline the pace.
Elba growls intermittent dialogue, with his character amounting to nothing more than shallow archetype. Also, if you are going to have a gunslinger with a western motif, give him a cool hat. Elba, as always, looks and is cool, but something as simple as a hat would’ve fleshed out the gunslinger character.
McConaughey roams from sloppy set to sloppier set looking lost and perhaps even a little pissed that he signed on for this garbage. He’s not all bad; he’s just given next to nothing notable to do.
There are still some sketchy plans to follow up this film with a TV series. Whatever the plan is, scrap it and start over a few years from now, when the memory of this unfortunate cinematic event has subsided.