It’s long been said that The Dark Tower is “un-adaptable” for the screen. Stephen King’s novel series that spanned 8 books over 30 years is so chock-full of characters, events, backstory, mythology, and locations that it would be damn near impossible to bring this epic series to life satisfactorily on the big screen. I’m sad to say that, as of 2017, The Dark Tower still remains un-adaptable.

Though the movie may be a sort-of sequel, rather than a straight adaptation, it’s still a barely coherent mess for those who have read the books, and utterly incomprehensible to those who haven’t.

Jake Chambers, a troubled teen who suffers from disturbing dreams and happens to be a great artist who can sketch out his half-remembered night terrors, turns out to have latent psychic powers – known as “the shine”. Thanks to his shine, he dreams of Roland (Idris Elba), a warrior known as a Gunslinger, sworn to protect the Dark Tower that holds the universe in balance, as well as the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey), a powerful sorcerer who has set out to destroy the Tower.

Jake’s shine leads him to a portal into Mid-World, one of the countless inhabited worlds that the Dark Tower protects. It’s a world that technology has forgotten, a dreary, dark place that’s part Wild West, part post-apocalypse and part futuristic, all in one go. After Jake convinces Roland that he can lead the gunslinger to the Man in Black, they set off on a mission to stop the potential destruction of the Tower.

Throughout this journey that Roland and Jake undertake, there are random pieces here and there that fans of the books will recognise. Some scenes are line-for-line dialogue accurate, while others hovered at the edge of recognition. Tet Corporation, Sombra, the Dixie Pig and the rose all make an appearance, in varying degrees from blink-and-you’ll-miss-it to actually-part-of-the-plot. Considering how much mythology there is to draw from in The Dark Tower series alone, it seems odd that other King lore was thrown in (like the shine). For me, this attempt at an interconnected universe felt simultaneously vague and forced.

While the movie may be a journey, it seems far too focused on the destination. Director Nikolaj Arcel rushes through scenes at a breakneck speed, always in a hurry to get somewhere without considering where that somewhere is. There’s little time for world-building, let alone character building. Instead, various genres and ideas are thrown together helter-skelter, with a rough, “let’s just get this finished already” air. By the time you get to the final face-off between Roland and the Man in Black, you’re both worn out from the pace, and tired of the shoddy sets and special effects. And, by the looks of it, so were the characters.

At least one shining light in all this mess is Idris Elba. As Roland Deschain, Elba shows a convincing amount of solemnity, as well as the right balance of tough warrior and tortured soul. It’s easy to see why he was cast.Elba’s acting style embodies what Roland has always been. Full credit is also due to Elba for managing to maintain a straight face throughout.

A slight step down from Elba’s performance was that of Tom Taylor, the relative newcomer who tackles the role of Jake Chambers. Taylor doesn’t do anything to step outside of the generic, slightly long-haired white teenage boy protagonist mould, which is a pity – but he tries his best with what he’s given. When the hectic pace lets up, Taylor and Elba manage to have some good bonding moments.

I’m surprised to say that one of the worst parts of The Dark Tower was, for me, Matthew McConaughey. The Man in Black, The Walkin’ Dude, Randall Flagg or Walter o’Dim as he is known in the Dark Tower, is a well-known character in the interlinked King universe. Like Elba, McConaughey was the perfect casting choice for this role – his accent, charm and intensity should have made this role a walk in the park. Unfortunately, that’s exactly how he treats it.

McConaughey was there to do nothing but stalk around and look cool, possibly just to cash a cheque. Being able to nonchalantly kill with a wave of a hand is one thing, but doing so without any sort of investment or sign of depth is another thing entirely. McConaughey’s entire performance was a barely repressed yawn and eye-roll, which speaks volumes for the film at large.

And that is the most damning thing of all for The Dark Tower. Ignore the wild abandon with which the source material was treated. Forget the terrible pacing, somewhat lacklustre acting and lifeless cinematography. At the end of the day, The Dark Tower is just underwhelming. We’ve known it for a while, and while I wholeheartedly wish it weren’t the case, I can’t lie to you. I can tell you that there are plenty of stylish moments, and no one can dislike Elba, but the film as a whole is a barely suppressed yawn.

Last Updated: September 4, 2017

The Dark Tower
Despite Idris Elba's best efforts, director Nikolaj Arcel has forgotten the face of his father. Go then, there are other Stephen King adaptations than these.
4.5
34/ 100

22 Comments

  1. Ottokie

    September 4, 2017 at 10:44

    I can just re watch Baywatch or Power Rangers again. So it’s all good 😛

    Reply

    • RinceThis

      September 4, 2017 at 11:45

      Why would you want to watch Baywatch again? 0_O

      Reply

      • Original Heretic

        September 4, 2017 at 11:56

        Alexandra…..

        Reply

        • Kervyn Cloete

          September 4, 2017 at 12:11

          Look, I worship at the altar of Daddario, but not even she was enough for me to see past how terrible that movie is.

          Reply

          • Original Heretic

            September 4, 2017 at 13:23

            I haven’t even seen it yet. But when I do, it’s going to be specifically for her.

      • Ottokie

        September 4, 2017 at 12:33

        Because it’s funny and does not try to be serious at all. Unlike forced Marvel movies.

        Reply

        • RinceThis

          September 4, 2017 at 15:53

          Marvel movies aren’t trying to be funny, and that steaming pile of utter bollocks Baywatch wasn’t either! tehehehe!

          Reply

  2. Original Heretic

    September 4, 2017 at 10:56

    It isn’t at all strange that they included “the shine” in this movie. The Dark Tower books incorporate aspects of many of King’s works, shine included.
    There’s even a camp full of children with the shine in one of the later books, with the character from Hearts in Atlantis being their father figure. Hell, even Father Callahan from Salem’s Lot makes an appearance later.

    That’s why King wrote himself into the story, because eventually he realized that he’d written himself into a corner with all the references to his own works. The only common thread he could find was himself.
    I still consider that lazy, though…

    Reply

    • Tracy Benson

      September 4, 2017 at 10:58

      Jake never had the shine, which is what threw me off I think.

      Reply

      • Original Heretic

        September 4, 2017 at 11:03

        I read the books many years ago, so my memory could be fallible here.
        I don’t recall Jake being specifically mentioned as having the shine, but it was always implied that there was something about him that kept the others together.
        Roland always thought of him as being the most like Alain, one of his childhood friends. And Alain was the one who was the strongest in “the touch”, as Roland thought of it.

        Reply

        • Tracy Benson

          September 4, 2017 at 11:28

          I double checked, and yes, it’s never specifically mentioned that Jake has the shine, though others in the universe have had “the touch” like you say. For me, adding it so blatantly into the movie just doesn’t work, it feels very forced.

          Reply

          • Original Heretic

            September 4, 2017 at 11:31

            I won’t watch this on the big screen.
            Such a shame, really, it had amazing potential.
            It could have worked so well to incorporate Jake’s abilities organically.

          • Tracy Benson

            September 4, 2017 at 11:53

            It’s very obvious that this film went through 3 directors and a complete development hell, you can see there’s a lot of potential that was discarded at the last minute. Another reason it felt so rushed.

  3. Magoo

    September 4, 2017 at 11:05

    Agree 100%.

    Reply

  4. RinceThis

    September 4, 2017 at 11:43

    Sigh. I’ll just have to read the books…

    Reply

    • Original Heretic

      September 4, 2017 at 11:56

      Have you read them before or will it be first time now?

      Reply

    • Francois Knoetze

      September 5, 2017 at 11:27

      DUDE YOU MUST READ THE BOOKS!!!

      also get hold of black house if you can. (it is collaboration but has characters from the dark tower making an appearance)

      Reply

      • Peet Luckhoff

        September 5, 2017 at 13:05

        The Talisman first…then Black House

        Reply

        • Francois Knoetze

          September 5, 2017 at 17:27

          I see you too are a man of culture!

          Reply

          • Peet Luckhoff

            September 6, 2017 at 09:08

            Takes one to know one.

            “Cyber High Five”

  5. Chris Muller

    September 6, 2017 at 13:46

    Just finished book 4. Gonna start The Wolves Of Calla tonight.
    Want to finish the books before watching the film.
    Is not sounding good for the film. Hopefully can be done well as a TV series….

    Reply

  6. Candy Torma

    September 9, 2017 at 09:58

    i will never watch it… i cant…… (happy that other people enjoy it) but i love these books so much and i dont want to waste my time being angry~ long days and pleasant nights~

    Reply

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