The Dark Tower is the long awaited adaptation of Stephen King’s epic fantasy series of novels. Taking from several different novels throughout the series, director Nikolaj Arcel and the team of screenwriters carve their own story from it. Starring Idris Elba as Roland Deschain the last of the Gunslingers, a group who were sworn to protect The Dark Tower, and Matthew McConaughey as The Man In Black Walter Padick who seeks to destroy it.
The audience is introduced to this world through Jake Chambers, played by Tom Taylor, a teenage boy from Earth who has visions of events in Mid-World, where Roland resides. There a huge changes to the book from here, and to be honest they all just seem to make The Dark Tower a far more generic fantasy film. The original King novels are far weirder, and as a result The Dark Tower is left feeling flat, clichéd, and boring. The decision to make Jake the main focus of the film is one decision that is extremely strange. Roland is by far the most interesting character in the film. Roland’s back-story and history with Walter are touched upon in the film, but ultimately left unexplored, presumably in the hopes of seeing them in future spin offs.
Instead Arcel throws us through events at breakneck speed, barely pausing to give the characters time to grow or for the audience to truly care about them. The film is only an hour and half long, but when trying to adapt such an epic fantasy series, you feel as though these characters need more time to be explored. We are left knowing almost nothing about who the Gunslingers were, what Walter’s motivations for attempting to destroy the tower are, or how these two are linked going back in to their history. There are actually moments where the films stops for someone to drop huge amounts of exposition on us, mainly through a seer that Roland and Jake meet, but these feel very dry and is not the most interesting way of revealing information.
What The Dark Tower does have going for it is some serious star power. The highlight of the film is Idris Elba as Roland. He brings a depth to the character of Roland, managing to convey his world-weariness far better than the screenplay’s more heavy handed approach. He also does a great job of adding some ‘fish out of water’ humour to sequences of Roland on Earth. McConaughey hams it right up as the antagonist, but this leaves it feeling like rather a generic fantasy villain, and he could definitely have brought a lot more to the character. Tom Taylor isn’t bad as Jake, but the character is just bland and as a result it is hard to care about him. A great young actor may have been able to make something more interesting out of it, but the material really isn’t there.
On the whole The Dark Tower is just a generic and dull fantasy film. If the studio were hoping for it to set up the possibilities of a franchise or spin offs, then they are likely to find themselves disappointed. It’s too far removed from the original novel to have any hope of capturing Stephen King fans, and there isn’t anything to excite new comers to the story.