The Dark Tower Movie Review: His Father’s Forgotten Face

Image Courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment

Back in 1970, Stephen King first wrote the iconic line, “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” Thirty-four years later (or fourty-two if you feel so inclined to count King’s latest entry The Wind Through the Keyhole), he has written what many consider to be his magnum opus, spanning the course of seven initial volumes, with an eighth published in 2012 and a connected novella that was published in 1998. The master of horror and macabre fantasy had created his own epic that was Tolkein inspired and crossed threads with many of his most well known works, such as The ShiningThe Stand‘Salem’s Lot, and more.

Image Courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment

Now, after ten years of development hell, we finally get the adaptation of the book series that everyone said was unfilmable. So were they right? Well, sort of. Now, let me preface this by saying that it’s been close to fifteen years since I’ve read the books, and while I don’t remember everything about them clearly, I remember enough to know that this film falls far short of it’s potential to portray even a fraction of the strange and epic world and characters that Stephen King created within the pages of his series. Sure, there are small easter eggs here and there for vigilant King fans, but it feels more like an ingratiating wink and a nod to get the audience to not pay attention to how much they’re being let down.

Image Courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment

Director Nikolaj Arcel co-wrote the script, along with producer Akiva Goldsman (Batman & Robin), Jeff Pinker (The Amazing Spiderman 2) and Anders Thomas Jensen (The Salvation). What these four writers have given us is a script that lazily condenses what at worst should be a three hour epic into a lazy 90 minute affair that really only manages to find any footing in the last half. Maybe there’s more that was in the script, I don’t know. It’s possible, since much of the first half of the film (especially in a second act that tries to show a journey) ends up being a bit disjointed as they tend to focus on set pieces instead of world building – which is a shame, because it would have been incredible to see Mid-World brought to life in the way that Peter Jackson brought Middle Earth to life.

Image Courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment

The cast here, does fairly well, for the most part. Idris Elba does what he does best: be a stoic man’s man. When I heard that he was cast as Roland Deschain, I was a bit miffed, since King himself said he’d always envisioned Roland being like Clint Eastwood’s The Man With no Name, so I didn’t understand why that was the way they chose to go. While I won’t say that Elba’s performance changed my mind on his casting, I will say that he did well with what he was given – probably better than it deserved, to be honest. But what is interesting is that Arcel and the writers chose to have Roland play second fiddle to Jake Chambers, played by Tom Taylor. It wasn’t a good choice to demote the series’ main character into a supporting role. Tom does okay as Jake Chambers, but fails to really carry the film. It’s not until about 45 minutes in, in a scene which Roland is teaching Jake how to shoot, that I even began to feel any kind of connection. But more of that was the script’s fault than his. Matthew McConauhey seems to relish playing Walter O’Dim, the Man in Black, who is pretty much evil incarnate. Unfortunately, you get the sense that his character is constrained a bit by the PG-13 rating. He also does what he can with what he’s given, which isn’t much.

Tom Holkenborg, also known as Junkie XL, is the composer for this film’s score and unfortunately turns out a rather by the numbers affair. It seems that none of his recent works have quite lived up to the potential he showed with Mad Max: Fury Road, and this one is no different. On the plus side, however, Rasmus Videbaek’s cinematography keeps the film looking beautiful while they’re in Mid-World, though it’s a little flat while they’re in New York.

Image Courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment

As a fan of the books, I don’t think I can in good conscience recommend anyone to see this. It’s not as bad of an adaptation of a well loved property like Assassin’s Creed was, but it’s not too far off. Thinking of the missed opportunity of this adaptation makes me wonder what we missed out had Ron Howard been able to follow through with his plan. Or perhaps if JJ Abrams, who first got his hands on the property, hadn’t decided that it was too daunting to try to adapt. Sadly, what we’re left with is a lazy adaptation that tries to pass itself off as sequel and ends up being more of an insult to the source material. As hard as I am on the film, I did manage to walk out of it and realize that it could have been worse. See it if you must, but I recommend a matinee.

Image Courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment

Mathew Gruman
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Mathew Gruman

Matt is the resident movie reviewer and managing editor for thatgeekshow.com, and has been an avid movie buff for as long as he can remember. He also loves gaming, music, whiskey and pizza.
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