Movie Review: The Dark Tower
The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.
If this sentence means anything to you then you are probably a Dark Tower series devotee like myself! And as such, you will most likely want to see this new movie, no matter how many tomatoes or thumbs or stars it receives. And here are a few of the reviews:
Common Sense Media says, “Awful, violent, revenge-filled Stephen King adaptation.”
Rotton Tomatoes says, “Go then, there are other Stephen King adaptations than these.” The tomatometer rating is 18%.
RoberEbert.com says “More forgettable than loathsome, the kind of movie that occasionally rubs salt in your wounds by reminding you what could have been, but mostly just dissipates from memory as it's playing.”
CNN.com says, “The Dark Tower avoids the lowest rungs of that ladder. Taken on its terms it's hardly a disaster, delivering moments of fun on a basic level.”
MoneyMatters.Life (me) says, “The Dark Tower movie has delicious Stephen King flavor but not the satisfying aftertaste of a trip through the pages of a Dark Tower novel.”
I have read The Dark Tower novel a dozen times, at minimum. So I was excited and nervous to see how a movie adaptation would be. We went yesterday to our favorite local luxury movie theater, Cinépolis, for opening night. I have mixed emotions about the movie but it was a pleasant hour and a half spent watching Stephen King flavored visions on the big screen, while eating gourmet caramel corn and drinking a Blue Moon. Honestly, all movie reviewers would rate movies higher if they all watched them at Cinépolis! Reclining leather loveseats! Reserved seating! Four stars!
But back to the movie.
I’ve been reading Stephen King since approximately 1985, and once I found him and this genre, I was addicted. The movie Dark Tower mirrors aspects from the worlds of Stephen King (i.e. his “Multiverse”). Throughout the movie we see elements from the Shining, Cujo, Dark House, It, and Salems Lot - like the beams; the colored looking glass ball-like “Bends” of the Wizards Rainbow; the low people, or the can-toi; and scenes of a world that has moved on.
Idris Elba was an amazing Roland. He carried off Roland’s matter fact personality and made his lack of humor seem natural. However, there was one part of the movie that I wish had been different and more in line with the novel. It’s a small thing, but in the third book, The Drawing of The Three, when Roland comes into our world, he tastes Coca-Cola and has a great reaction to all the sugar. It’s one of my favorite little Roland-is-a-real-person moments and it was missing in the movie. It was played very flatly and could have been an endearing way to add depth to the movie Roland.
Also, I didn't care for how the rock solid self-surety of Roland had to be messed with for this adaptation. Hollywood interjected it's tried and true movie formula, and gave Roland self doubt to overcome. The Roland I knew, through reading the series multiple times, although weary, was sure of his purpose.
Jakes’s movie character was comparable to the novel, although the movie Jake had a very different background then the Jake of the books. Jake from the novel has a father who is a high-powered executive and a mother has a socialite and Jake doesn't have a loving relationship with either.
Matthew McConnaughey played Walter Dim, The Man in Black. His use of magic was more outright powerful than in the novels, and the arc of his interaction with Roland was changed for the movie. Walter's role in Roland's father's death is shown, but there is no reference to his relationship with Roland's mother.
From the previews I had surmised that the movie was a conglomeration of the first three books, because you see Jake accessing Roland's world from within a house. However, this Dark Tower movie had aspects of the Dark Tower series that aren't seen until much later in the series - like the Dixie pig, Devar-Toi, and the breakers.
Despite the movie content being pulled from a broad range of the books, the main characters were limited to Jake, Roland and Walter, aka The Man in Black.
Some of my favorite parts of the movie had to do with Roland’s gunslinging action shots. I particularly loved seeing him reload his guns. It's captivating to see it in action after reading about his gun prowess and fluency. I wish that the special effects had been showcased more and that the movie had been longer, it felt very rushed and half-hearted. The monsters wearing the faces of people could have been terrifying if given more attention and editing.
But, I do hope to see more of the Dark Tower movie series even if it doesn't parallel the novels.
Did I like the movie? I actually cannot decide. I wish it was closer to the novels but I appreciate how educated in Stephen King lore the moviemakers were, and that they stayed true to his Multiverse while working within the need to Hollywood-ize it.
Go see it if you love Stephen King, but skip it if you are only luke-warm on the genre.