Film Review: 'THE DARK TOWER' tries to sell you on heart, but doesn't have one.
Courtesy of Sony
Throughout the screening of “The Dark Tower” I kept trying to piece the puzzle together that the filmmakers were trying to make. The quintessence's came to be, as the film progressed further and further down the rabbit hole, that while you can have the most recognizable, albeit, reliable showman in the biz even they can’t save a withering picture. As good as Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey are, they can only do so much with the material they’re given. And the material is half baked and dishonest. I mean the entire duration of this skimpy 95 minute epic touts this heavy handed phrase of “a man shoots with his heart, not his head” or, at least, that’s the motto Elba’s character lives by. Yet, “The Dark Tower,” based on a series of popular Stephen King novels, never abides to that code. How can you expect an audience to buy into your message, if the movie can’t do the same?
I’m not saying the film is unwatchable, because despite all the corn bullish action sequences that looked like they came out of a toaster, “The Dark Tower” has swagger and flare. Minor as it maybe, it's there. Specifically from Elba who carries this thing on his back, literally. McConaughey does boast this eagerness in his performance; an ancient being that is so diabolical you almost feel like the actor was born to play no other role. But the ego is what gets the better of him, because as much as I sit here and delve into his character (at least the on-screen adaptation - I can't speak for the books) I can't grasp my finger on him. And instead of getting us the necessary information. The film would rather set up a huge exposition scene, then take the time and explain better character narratives. No, I'm serious. The characters talk about something happening and then, within three minutes, we get a poor jump cut to that exact thing happening.
The source material seems like a slam dunk and while I personally haven’t read the 15,000 page arch that spans across eight novels, I still make the case that a movie adaptation shouldn’t shun those who haven’t read the book. Because, with that said, the film leaves much to be desired, and us newbies have to filter out the details. The whole mythology is in terrific King fashion; their is this Tower that basically exists at the epitome of the universe to ward off the darkness that lurks in the shadows. Back in the day, their was a war among creatures, the Gunslingers and The Man In Black. Rolland (Elba) is the last standing slinger of his kind, and Walter (McConaughey) walks with a sinister snarl that he truly is going to end the world. But he faces an uphill battle from a kid in New York, Jacob Chambers (Tom Taylor) who has a “shine” ability, which means he can see visions stronger than most. He holds the key to keeping the Tower alive and flourishing. But the only thing the Gunslinger wants is to kill Walter, so it's merely, on the surface, a revenge picture with a budget.
It’s so hard to explain this type of plot without sounding a tad crazy, but, that’s the premise we are supposed to buy into. Director Nikolaj Arcel does have a decent track record of producing content that is pure madness in terms of quality. His writing on the Swedish version of “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” is genius. Too bad, that he has finally been given the reigns to helm his first big budget film, and you can’t help but feel the hands of Sony all over it. Plagued with production issues (and a few release date shifts) the film feels unfinished and all over the place. The main thing is understanding the crux of Walter’s ambitions as a character. I found myself debating constantly of why he is doing what he is doing. And the only reason I can muster is, “I guess it’s just what bad guys do?”
I’m not trying to dig at the actors here, and the idea of McConaughey playing a villain is an easy sell, but he feels surprisingly tame. He is able to muster phrases like “stop breathing” or “kill each other” and then people obey his command. Only, we never get to truly feel his presence or growl, because the movie is constantly shifting back and forth tonally between this world and other worlds. And by the time the final showdown takes place, it all feels silly, rushed and unsatisfying.
Effectively, Elba and McConaughey deserved better. “The Dark Tower” just seems too caught up in it’s own message that it actually forgot to solicit one. There isn’t one defining moment of redemption to even make you care once about the nature of the situation. The tower itself is merely talked about, I don’t think we ever see it up close other than flashbacks. The end result is just a cheaply made gimmick that tries to sell you on heart, but first needs to find its soul. C-