Main cast: Idris Elba (Roland Deschain), Tom Taylor (Jake Chambers), Katheryn Winnick (Laurie Chambers), Dennis Haysbert (Steven), Claudia Kim (Arra), Fran Kranz (Pimli), Abbey Lee Kershaw (Tirana), Jackie Earle Haley (Sayre), Michael Barbieri (Timmy), José Zúñiga (Dr Hotchkiss), Alex McGregor (Susan Delgado), Nicholas Hamilton (Lucas Hanson), and Matthew McConaughey (Walter Padick)
Director: Nikolaj Arcel
Nowadays, movie studios aren’t content with just a successful big screen franchise – they also want a multi-platform franchise spanning television and big screen as well as toys and books and comics and what not. And, of course, the whole thing is planned even before the first movie hits the screen. The Dark Tower is another of Sony Picture’s increasingly desperate desire to have its own Marvel Cinematic Universe, only to instead become one more entry in Sony Picture’s embarrassing track record. The corpse of the dead-on-arrival non-franchise starter Ghostbusters has barely cooled and they… seriously, Stephen King’s works? Have many more bad movie adaptations of that man’s works do we need?
This one, by the way, gets rid of the more complex concepts and intricacies in the source material, which is understandable as the author’s books are not exactly easy to translate faithfully onto both big and small screens. Some glimmers of brilliance still remain here: a post-apocalyptic fantasy setting that incorporates many of the modern-day Earth elements that we know, in a more fantastical context. But everything here is so poorly developed and expounded on, it’d be hard to get the whole big picture of the story unless one also watches the TV series in the works that would plug in the back story. Perhaps that is the point?
So, in the context of this movie, there are many different worlds out there, all connected by this Dark Tower thing that is constructed to prevent demons from assaulting these worlds. On our world, we have Jake Chambers – played by one of the flattest child actors with the most annoying mug I’ve come across in a while – who is haunted by dreams of what seems like a dark tower, a scary man in black, and a gunslinger. His stepfather would love to be rid of him, while his mother doesn’t know what to make of him, so they decide to send him to a special school for, uh, special kids like him. Jake realizes that the ‘school’ is run by the same skinless creatures he sees in his dreams, runs away, finds a magical portal (don’t ask), and ends up in Mid-World. He encounters Roland, the last of the Gunslingers, and spends the bulk of the movie being in trouble and needing rescue even as everyone praises this useless baggage for having super special skills. Ugh.
Idris Elba is pretty good in playing an admittedly stereotypical stoic action hero while Matthew McConaughey is appropriately sleazy and despicable in his role, but the Gunslinger is actually a secondary character here – he’s more of the irritating Jake’s babysitter and sidekick – while Walter is a lame villain. And Tom Taylor… oh god, maybe he’d take the money from this role and go to school or somewhere else far, far away from screens both big and small.
There aren’t many good action scenes here, just some unintentionally hilarious gun-fu scenes that feel more like a parody of The Matrix than anything else. Not much humor or drama either. But then again, the entire movie is just a 90-something minute trailer for future sequels, TV series, comics, books, and more. Should such a practice be encouraged? Sic it to the man by watching this on rental or streaming, and let’s hope Idris Elba finds a good agent that would break his streak of horrible main roles and forgettable secondary ones.