Review: The Dark Tower (2017)

The Dark Tower (2017)

Directed by: Nikolaj Arcel | 95 minutes | action, adventure | Actors: Matthew McConaughey, Idris Elba, Tom Taylor, Dennis Haysbert, Ben Gavin, Claudia Kim, Jackie Earle Haley, Fran Kranz, Abbey Lee, Katheryn Winnick, Nicholas Pauling, Michael Barbieri, José Zúñiga, Nicholas Hamilton, Eva Kaminsky, Robbie McLean , Mark Elderkin, Matthew Thomson

Stephen King has written many books since his debut ‘Carrie’; in a 2016 conversation with fellow author George RR Martin, he said he commits himself to writing at least six pages every day. And even though he doesn’t write nearly as much as he did in the seventies, eighties and nineties, he can’t resist. Much of his work has been made into films – think of ‘Carrie’ (1976), ‘The Shining’ (1980), ‘Christine’ (1983), ‘It’ (as a series in 1990 and as a film in 2017), ‘Misery’ ( 1990), ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ (1994) and so on. Much of his work is self-contained, but he also has an eight-part series to his name: ‘The Dark Tower’, written between 1982 and 2002. This series of books is considered King’s magnum opus, partly because it incorporates all kinds of elements. his other books in it. In its entirety, ‘The Dark Tower’ consists of more than four thousand pages of fused elements from horror, science fiction, fantasy and western that connect the parallel worlds from various King books. There have been plans for a film adaptation of this series for about ten years, and given its size, one film is not enough to do justice to the complexity of the story. JJ Abrams was originally in the picture as a director, and after he retired, there was talk of Ron Howard directing. However, it was Danish screenwriter and director Nikojai Arcel (‘A Royal Affair’, 2012) who took off with the film adaptation rights for both a film and a TV series.

‘The Dark Tower’ (2017) tries to tell the complete story of King’s eight-part series in 95 minutes. You say in advance that that is impossible, and this film adaptation unfortunately does not prove the opposite. The situation is described very quickly: eleven-year-old Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) has been an outsider at school, especially since his father, who was a firefighter, was killed in a rescue operation. He has visions and real-life nightmares about a universe protected from evil by a gigantic dark tower. A mysterious ‘man in black’ (Matthew McConaughey) goes to great lengths to bring down the tower so demons can take over. And then there’s the lone warrior, sniper Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), who tries to fight the black magician with wits and his revolver that shoots faster than his shadow. Jake’s mother (Katheryn Winnick) thinks her son has gone mad and wants to put him in a clinic, but as soon as Jake sees seams in the necks of the people who come to pick him up, he flees. He is convinced that he has been chosen to help Roland. Thanks to his ingenuity and perseverance, he even finds the place that offers him the gateway to the alternate universe. But the ‘man in black’ is after him.

Arcel worked on the screenplay with no fewer than three others, including his compatriot Anders Thomas Jensen, who we know from ‘Adam’s Apples’ (2005) and ‘Brothers’ (2009) and Akiva Goldsman (Oscar winner for ‘A Beautiful Mind’ , 2001). So many different ‘handwritings’ often result in a messy script and that is also the case here. It is already impossible to cram more than four thousand pages of source material in just one and a half hours, but here it is very colorful. It’s easy to follow at first, but once Jake steps into alternate reality, so much crucial information is left out and developments rush through so quickly that the film becomes a rather disjointed mixed bag. Certain dialogues still refer to elements of the source material (for example, in the scene where Roland takes a trip to Jake’s world and sees a commercial with talking raccoons, he asks, ‘Do the animals still talk here?’ – this is a reference to Oy, a talking animal from the book series that is not referenced anywhere). Because so much (background) information has been omitted, touched on casually or summarized in a minimal way, the dialogue often makes no sense if you don’t know the books. Reportedly, that background information will be incorporated into the upcoming television series, which creates the expectation that the series will do more justice to King’s book series than the film.

What remains is the visual spectacle and especially the actors. McConaughey and Elba do their very best to make something out of it and succeed reasonably well. Elba, in particular, is cut out for the role of the last of the ‘Gunslingers’, and has just the right look for an ultra-cool action hero (it’s not for nothing that Elba has already been signed to the series). He even provides comic scenes here and there, whether intentional or not. Elba, McConaughey and the young Taylor keep a film that rushes past itself just a little bit.

Comments are closed.