Let me preface this review of The Dark Tower with a little bit of background information on my knowledge of the series and my fandom towards it. I only started reading The Dark Tower books last summer. I did, however, devour them back to back until I was finished. Nevertheless, I didn’t have to wait years like some people for each new book to come out, and my waiting for the movie was even shorter. What I am trying to say is, man, it must suck for the people that waited so damn long for this movie.
To read about my experience with The Dark Tower series, read my A Journey through Stephen King’s The Dark Tower Universe article!
The Dark Tower movie is a sad attempt at capturing the epic story that Stephen King laid out over 35 or so years. Let’s be honest, though, we probably could have guessed nothing would capture the true essence of The Dark Tower, but we still had our hopes on a film that would at least try hard. Instead, we got a film that spends a majority of time doling out little winks and nods to fans, while not explaining a damn thing that’s going on. Although these nods to King’s work can be fun, it just makes you wish even harder for a real Dark Tower story.
At least we can say that Idris Elba does a good job at pretending to be Roland Deschain from the books. Yes, the skin colour is wrong and not explained, but we do get bits and pieces and little tiny glimpses of the Roland from the series. Matthew McConaughey does an interesting take on The Man in Black. It isn’t a terrible performance, but it isn’t anything special either. The Man in Black in this movie feels vastly different than the book incantation. In the movie, The Man in Black is so powerful; there is no need for him to flee across the desert (also, not starting the movie on that line is a criminal offence).
The motive seems to have shifted for Roland in the movie. His main goal is to avenge his father and kill The Man in Black. He doesn’t care at all about The Dark Tower. As for The Man in Black, he isn’t making his way to the Tower either, but using portals to jump all over the place. In fact, the Tower is hardly present in the film save for a few far away shots. Seriously, the movie is called The Dark Tower, and it is barely in it! Roland doesn’t even go to the Tower! What the hell?!?
Another glaring issue with The Dark Tower is the lack of explanation on so many things that you are shown. We see signs all around the movie with the Crimson Kings logo and name, but we are never shown or told who the Crimson King is. We also have numerous creatures in the movie but are not explained what they are. It’s only until the end credits that you know that some are vampires. The Low Men are present, but as far as I remember, their name was never spoken aloud. There are just bits of pieces of Dark Tower history sprinkled throughout the movie, but unless you read the books, average joe is going to get one damn confusing movie.
It isn’t all terrible with The Dark Tower, as there are moments of spectacular action, usually when Roland is doing his thing with his guns. The end fight scene was pretty exhilarating, although I did not like how it ended. That was a big lame one there. Tom Taylor who plays Jake Chambers does a pretty great job of capturing the spirit of the character.
So, the big question is, is The Dark Tower a continuation of the book series? In a way, yes it is, but in other ways no. The Man in Black does say they’ve gone around the wheel before and have done certain things before, which is a neat way of saying the books still exist, but honestly, everything just feels so different than what was in the books. It’s hard to explain, but it just doesn’t feel like the same world that we lived in for so long (some longer than others as I mentioned in the beginning).
I was hoping that at the end of the credits, there would be an extra scene that was like, surprise here is the real The Dark Tower movie you’ve been waiting for, but alas, there was nothing. Maybe in a few years, they’ll give it another shot, and we’ll get something that feels like The Dark Tower. In the meantime, we’ll have to settle for a subpar story that takes place just next door to the real Dark Tower.