The Dark Tower

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Geoff Harris

“The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed him. ”

The Dark Tower is a film adaptation of the first book of the series of the same name. The movie chronicles the pursuit of a mysterious sorcerer named Walter (Matthew McConaughey) by Roland the Gunslinger (Idris Elba). The action begins with Walter decimating what appears to be the remaining forces of a presumed army. We quickly learn of Walter’s intentions to destroy The Dark Tower, a building which sits at the center of all realities and acts as type of axis upon which all creation spins. The movie shifts from Roland’s battered and broken world to what is assumed to be ours. We meet Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), a troubled young man who has been having lucid dreams of Roland, Walter, and especially the tower. Jake’s mother is concerned that her son is not coping well with the recent (as of the start of the movie) death of her husband and Jake’s biological father. The step-father is rather distant and has issues with his step-son.

The movie moves fairly quickly to establish that Jake is “special” and gifted with psychic abilities he is unaware he possesses, referred to in context as his “Shining.” Through a quick series of events Jake makes his way to Roland’s earth, tentatively called Mid-World, where the two meet and begin the journey to find someone who can interpret Jake’s visions. Mid-World is said to have “moved on” and is now a wasteland full of mutants and demons from beyond space and time.  Walter turns the tables on Roland and kidnaps Jake taking him to a secret lair located on Keystone World (Jake’s Earth.) Walter has been snatching children from all over the multiverse and using their shining to fuel a weapon that fires bolts of energy drained from the children at the Dark Tower. Roland makes his way to Keystone World, saves Jake , and the two return to mid-World to begin a new adventure.

I have read most of the Dark Tower series. This is a very watered down version of the first book with several liberties taken and a few details omitted. The movie starts off slowly but picks up speed until it becomes a bit of a blur. I did find it hard to follow in places because narrative speed-bumps over a lot of the sub-text from the book. Yes, I am aware this is an adaptation and things will get lost in translation. What bothered me most was the breakneck pace the film moves at. You barely have time to understand a line of exposition before whisked away to have more thrown at you. The plot is also very thin. I was hoping for a bit more meat. Roland and Jake’s bond feels a little forced. McConaughey does creepy extremely well but Walter’s motivations are limited to “See the Tower/Destroy the Tower.” Elba as the Gunslinger is an addled shell of a character. I can get behind the sole survivor routine but he just seems to sleepwalk through the movie until someone shoots at him or he’s called upon to say something snarky. We get it, you’re crusty and broken. A sad mirror of the world you’re from. I really couldn’t sympathize for Jake. He comes off as a typical tween with daddy issues.

All in all, I’d give this one a C+. It would have worked better as a Game of Thrones type show where you could flesh out the characters and the world more.

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