A Completely Unsolicited Review of The Dark Tower Movie

“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”

It is one of the best opening lines in a novel, in my opinion.

Stephen King screen adaptations vary from wildly terrible, nearly unwatchable dreck, to classic very watchable horror (think Carrie and The Shining) to inspirational (think The Green Mile and Shawshank Redemption, one of the best movies in the history of film, full stop). Vulture did a fun list ranking every one, which is a pretty entertaining read. I disagree with their number one choice, but not by much.

I also did not realize there were thirty-eight King adaptations out there.

Despite the “controversy”, I wanted to see The Dark Tower, mostly because I was curious of the “how” of it. How were they going to tell the story? Was it going to unbearably long? Was it going to be the first in a series of movies based on the novels? How were they going to deal with the one aspect of the story that didn’t work with a black actor playing Roland?

Short version: The Dark Tower actually pretty good, so don’t believe the naysayers. If you want to go see it, go see it. It’s entertaining, the story is solid, the acting is great, and Idris Elba.

Longer version:

I was skeptical about a movie adaptation of The Dark Tower Series. I mean, sure, they did it with Harry Potter, but – with apologies to my favorite author – The Dark Tower is not Harry Potter.

The Dark Tower movie, fortunately, is not an adaptation of The Dark Tower books, except in the absolute broadest sense. See that opening line. There was a gunslinger, Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger; there was a man in black (played to great effect by Matthew McConaughey); there was the boy Jake.

The Dark Tower movie pulls from many elements of the books, to be sure, again, the broadest plot points and themes. A tower stands at the center of all the universes; the man in black is trying to destroy it, and let in the darkness beyond all the universes. The man in black is aided in his task by low men (and women) who go out into the worlds, capture special children, and use their psychic powers – their “shine” in the parlance of the King multiverses – to break the Beam.

I will admit that the movie probably makes much more sense if you have read all the books. The screen adaptation more or less takes place after the last book in the series, which is one of the reasons that they could cast Idris Elba. Since Roland’s life resets after Book 7, he could literally be any race. This is a new timeline, and who knows if Eddie and Susannah are going to make an appearance in this version of Roland’s life. Who knows if they will even make another film? (I’m in if they do.)

Elba is fantastic as Roland. Dispassionate, bent on one thing (and it ain’t saving the Tower), indifferent to his well-being, and pretty much willing to kill everyone and anyone who gets in his way. McConaughey must take great delight in playing the man in black, Walter. He swaggers with a palpable air of evil through every scene. Jake Chambers is played by Tom Taylor, who captures the character’s vulnerability and grit to a tee.

The movie makes several nods to its source material, but because it is not trying to be everything in the books, it works. The story stands on its own. Elba and Taylor have good on-screen chemistry. If I have any criticism, it’s that the end is a little too neat, a little too easy. But it gave the film closure and it enables it to stand on its own.

I would recommend The Dark Tower to King fans who liked the books. I think it does a good job of adapting the material available while not trying to be all things to all people.

If there are other movies, I hope Elba gets a shirtless scene. I’m just saying.

What’s your favorite King movie? What’s your favorite King book?

Copyright for featured image: supergranto / 123RF Stock Photo

Leave a Reply