Review: ‘The Dark Tower’ Stands Despite its Much to Be Desired Structure

This Stephen King adaptation might not feel epic like its source material, but it’s appealing enough to rope anybody in.

RATING: ★★1/2 (out of four stars)

After years in development hell, Stephen King’s magnum opus finally hits the big screen. If you’ve been following the production of The Dark Tower, then you know the movie has been fighting an uphill battle just to get to its release date. The first-ever footage for the movie was shown back in May, which is three months before the movie’s release; typically, footage from an upcoming movie is released to the public six to eight months before release. And according to a report in Variety, the movie underwent a number of edits and big reshoots after poorly-scored test screenings back in October.

Despite all the initial warnings that indicated The Dark Tower would be flat-out awful, I was surprised. I actually liked this movie. 

The Dark Tower is a simple good-versus-evil story, making it accessible for anyone wanting to watch it. On one side, The Man in Black, Walter (played by Matthew McConaughey), wants to take down the Dark Tower, which is at the center of everything and protects the universe from the darkness. On the other side, The Gunslinger, Roland (played by Idris Elba), wants to protect the Dark Tower and avenge the death of his father at the hands of The Man in Black. And so how do these two come back into contact? Because of a kid in New York named Jake (played by Tom Taylor) who holds the key to the Dark Tower and everything connected to it.

Sure, this movie has its share of problems, but I found myself entertained. The Dark Tower feels like the Triple Dipper, a popular appetizer at Chili’s. (By the way, If you’ve never had the Triple Dipper, I recommend you go to your nearest Chili’s and consume one so we can stop seeing all these articles about how the millennials are killing restaurant franchises.)

So, much like the Triple Dipper, The Dark Tower offers up three things that I easily gobbled down. First, the lore/mythology of Mid-World, which is the place Jake is spirited away and comes into contact with Roland. Sure, a lot of it is never touched upon, but there is so much fascination with what you see that you want to explore more of it. Second, the action. While its action sequences are spread too far apart for my taste, I still was very much into them because I enjoyed it every time Roland quickly reloaded and shot his guns, taking out enemies without a flinch. And, finally, there are The Dark Tower’s three main leads. Tom Taylor, in his first acting role, handles the role of the kid, Jake, just fine considering he’s given the most screen time. With McConaughey, I got a kick watching his Man in Black toy with others by way of his evil sorcery. And lastly, Elba is near-perfect as Roland and without a doubt the best thing about this movie. If The Dark Tower happens to fail upon launch of this franchise, it will be despite, rather than because of, Elba’s top-notch performance.  The Dark Tower proves one thing for certain: Elba is more than capable of leading a movie franchise (James Bond reboot? Yes, please.).

While I enjoyed all three of these aspects of The Dark Tower, they also happen to be the movie’s biggest problem – there just isn’t enough of any of them.  By the end of the movie’s 90-minute runtime, you’re left wanting much more. In addition to there not being enough of what’s good about the movie, The Dark Tower also has some cheesy dialogue (mostly given to The Man in Black), questionable story decisions, and visual effects that make it feel like a moderately low-budget TV pilot.

Early signs indicated that The Dark Tower would be a disaster. I went into this movie not expecting to like it. But why did I go see it? Because I’m a sucker for anything starring Elba or McConaughey and this movie had them both; I came out of the theater pleasantly surprised.

So, yes, The Dark Tower feels just like an appetizer; the first thing we dive into before the entrée, which in this case has all the necessary ingredients to make the next installment more fulfilling. But even so, the recipe for the Dark Tower franchise probably will need to make a few changes before it serves up its entrée. I’d like to see where the Dark Tower franchise goes, which will also include television installments that help bridge the gaps between movies. But right now, it’s up in the air until the box office numbers start coming in over the next few weeks, so we’ll see.