I remember when the talks surrounding a Dark Tower movie were getting serious, it seems like only yesterday … J.J. Abrams was set to direct it since Stephen King was a fan of Lost, but the show was a main priority at the time. Then it came out J.J. was afraid of messing up the script and ultimately passed on it. then Ron Howard picked it up, got a little momentum going and even had a few actors getting mentioned including Javier Bardem and Viggo Mortenson … before Universal got cheap and then dropped it. No worries though! He had faith in Howard, who shopped it around, got a few actors interested, got HBO to pick up the tv series portion for after the movie … before Warner Bros passed on the movie as well. Before too long there were new actors in talks, Sony picks it up, and then Howard dropped out as director to be replaced by Nikolaj Arcel. Everything then fell into place, production started, and it got out of the January release date hell (where movies go to die). So everything was great right? WRONG! The test screenings went horrible and the director was about to be replaced, but the producers said to clean up the music and narrative.
So here we are today! Pre-opening night with the first shows being at 19:19 (Stephen King likes the number 19 from what I have found out) and Rotten Tomatoes has it under 19% …. Well considering I haven’t read the book and have had a rough week, I figured there is no better time to sit back and watch it with some friends. What did I think?
I give it 6 “Stephen King universe Easter eggs you might have caught” out of 10
FOR THE UNITIATED
Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) has reoccurring dreams of a far off place with the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) and the Gunslinger (Idris Elba). The Man in Black uses “shine” from children to destroy the dark tower which acts as a barrier protecting the various Earths from evil outside of the universe. The “shine” is psychic energy, and it just so happens that Jake has the most that anyone has ever seen. The Man in Black wants to use him to destroy the dark tower and the Gunslinger wants to use him to get revenge.
The best aspect is the pacing and action. Everything moves along at a very quick pace, which is great. It is only an hour and a half, so the movie is over before you know it. That isn’t always a bad thing, especially since there was almost no fat to Dark Tower. The action was also much better than expected, granted it is entirely focused in two scenes and one character. Idris Elba plays a cowboy-ish Gunslinger to a surprising degree of bad-ass-ness. The reloading was shown in all of the trailers, but still very cool. He doesn’t play the all invincible character who cannot be harmed, which is a plus … just a near invincible character who rarely misses.
The worst part is the ending. It is the near perfect example of anticlimactic since everything goes from “Oh no! How are they going to win?” to ” Oh, that was nothing! Why didn’t they do that sooner?” It does go hand in hand with the lightning fast pacing and fairly disappointing since the length of the books is supposedly epic in size.
The cheesiness of the movie is great at points and then horrible at others. I get that McConaughey is playing someone supposedly more evil than the devil, but he was phoning it in. I mean right here in the middle of the McConaugh-sance and we get one of his worst performances in quite some time. Not to mention he looked very leathery, so all in all it was a poor role that got away from him in my opinion.
I am not familiar with the series at all, but from what I can tell they tried to fit the entire Harry Potter franchise (~4100 pages or 8 movies / ~20 hours) into less than 2 hours (Dark Tower is ~4200 pages). Obviously I don’t know what was cut out our how much … but I enjoyed the movie for what it was. It didn’t drag on or leave everything tied up for a sequel, instead it did what movies are supposed to do: entertain. If you want to see it, do it on the big screen. No reason to rush or pay more than matinee prices. If you didn’t want to see it, you could be surprised so check it out at a later and cheaper time if you like the sci-fi or western genre.
Another recent non-traditional western is my recommendation: Logan. It’s the last installment of Hugh Jackman playing the titular character Wolverine. As part of the X-Men movie franchise, he had a few decent spots but Logan is where he got to shine. It’s a shame they didn’t give him an R movie where he could drop F-bombs and actually use his claws. If you somehow didn’t see it and want to see Fox’s version of The Dark Knight,then this is for you.