What the Hell was The Dark Tower about, anyway?
It’s a legitimate question. I know that the film was technically a continuation of Stephen King’s overrated Dark Tower books. Matthew McConaughey was Walter, the Man in the Black, the man who is kidnapping psychic children so that he can weaponize their powers and destroy The Dark Tower. Idris Elba was Roland, the last of the gunslingers, who is obsessed with killing Walter because Walter killed his father. And Tom Taylor is Jake, an eleven year-old boy who lives in New York City and who keeps having visions of the Tower, Walter, and Roland. Walter wants Jake. Roland wants Walter. Jake wants to understand it all…
And that’s pretty much the entire movie. Jake switches back and forth between his world and Roland’s world. Walter occasionally pops up in New York so that he can kill Jake’s family and assure that Jake won’t have any reason not to continue traveling with Roland at the end of the movie. It all basically feels like the pilot for a television series and, to be honest, it probably wouldn’t be that bad of a show. For one thing, if The Dark Tower was a tv show, there would be more of an opportunity to develop the characters of Roland, Walter, and Tom. The Dark Tower movie only last 95 minutes and the majority of those minutes feel very rushed.
Obviously, if you’ve read Stephen King’s Dark Tower books, this film will be easier for you to follow than it will be for people who have never had to suffer through them. I know I’m in the minority as far as this is concerned but I find The Dark Tower series to be King at his most pretentious. Interestingly enough, a little bit of pretension probably would have helped the film version of The Dark Tower. As it is, The Dark Tower is almost too workmanlike and straight-forward. It could have really used a pointless Stephen King-style soliloquy about faith, innocence, and horror. At the very least, they could have had someone in the background, droning on about politics in a Maine accent.
I have to admit that I really, really, really wanted to like The Dark Tower. I love Idris Elba. I love Matthew McConaughey. Even more importantly, I love being a contrarian. Whenever a film gets as many negative reviews as The Dark Tower, my natural instinct is always to assume that it has to be a secret masterpiece. I mean, seriously, who trusts critics? I really wanted to watch The Dark Tower and then write a 1,000-word defense of it. I was hoping that, much like The Counselor, it would turn out to be a masterpiece that only I could recognize.
Sadly, that didn’t turn out to be the case. I will say that Matthew McConaughey seemed to be having a sincerely good time playing the bad guy. And Idris Elba had just the right mix of weariness and compassion to play Roland. But otherwise, the movie just felt so pointless.
Overall, this has been a pretty good year for Stephen King film adaptations. It deserves to be nominated for an Oscar, though it won’t be. Gerald’s Game made people thankful for Netflix. The Dark Tower, though, will be quickly forgotten.