What if there were other worlds; a series of alternate dimensions that work together in some form or another? What if there are alternate versions of our own world? How different would those worlds be from our own? If one was under attack, would that have an affect on the others? That is the subject covered in The Dark Tower, based on the seven part book series by legendary horror author Stephen King.
The film follows Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), who has been having visions of a Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey), and his enemy, the Gunslinger Roland Deschain (Idris Elba). Determined to find the meaning behind these visions, Jake discovers a portal that leads to Mid-World, an alternate dimension that has been destroyed by this Man in Black, Walter o’Dim. He is discovered by Roland and teams up with him to stop Walter from destroying the legendary Dark Tower, bringing apocalyptic destruction to all existence.
Despite some entertaining portions, The Dark Tower ended up being a mediocre fantasy adventure. First off, I thought the performances from Elba and McConaughey were really good. I enjoyed Elba’s brooding portrayal of Roland. I also thought McConaughey did a great job portraying the Man in Black. He gave off a real threatening vibe that really captured the type of character he was.
Visually, I thought this movie was really well done. I loved the sweeping landscapes that Roland and Jake were traveling through. I wanted to explore the vast locations of Mid-World myself. I do like it when movies create expansive landscapes. It makes me feel like there are other things happening in this world alongside the story, and I want to go discover them.
As a Stephen King fan, I really enjoyed the references to other books and short stories that he has written. The Dark Tower series serves as the link between everything that he has made, so I liked that the movie gave the impression that there were other Stephen King creations in this universe. That is something that is normally never discussed in other adaptations. It felt nice and fresh against everything else.
However, there is a reason why this movie is just mediocre. Aside from the great visuals, I thought the action scenes were really bland. I liked the cool ways that Roland reloaded his gun, but it isn’t that entertaining when you’ve seen lots of other movies perform similar actions. Many of the actions scenes played out like other, better movies in the genre. I can’t be entertained by something I have seen many times before.
The same goes for the story. I thought the basic story of the film was the same as other fantasy adventure films that came before this one. It followed all the beats of the Hero’s Journey narrative in ways that have been done to death. This made the movie very bland and predictable. Again, I can’t be entertained by something I’ve seen before.
I came into this movie having only read the summaries of the book series, but what I know of the series didn’t really match the movie. I thought the movie followed a story that was reminiscent of the books, but wasn’t trying to adapt the story. It almost felt like they were trying to adapt all seven books in one movie. Colombia Pictures had seven books to work with, so I don’t know why they took this path. This could have made a great, seven-film franchise if this movie was just based on the first book.
The thing that bothered me the most about this movie was its audience expectations. Similar to Warcraft last year, The Dark Tower expected the people coming in to know the series and everything that happens. It was not willing to let any new fans in through just watching the movie. That is not how you adapt a famous series like this. You need to make everyone, fans or not, feel like they can follow the story. Otherwise, you have an extremely limited audience.
The Dark Tower had some entertaining moments, but in the end, it was too focused on winning over fans to be anything truly worthwhile. In my opinion, this series is too complicated to be a movie. It would have worked better as a TV show, where each book could have been covered in detail. That way, even non-fans could follow the story. I don’t think a movie is a good medium for trying to tell such a complicated story.