Alright, the review you’ve all been waiting for.Alright, the review you’ve all been waiting for.
The Dark Tower. How did they manage to adapt 7 novels and a short story compilation? Short answer, they didn’t. And that’s a good thing.
Full disclosure, I’m a huge fan of the books, but I’ll try to keep this little review as free from that (and spoilers) as possible.
Hokay, so, going into this as a fan of weird concept films, sci-fi, fantasy, and westerns. This is a perfectly competent film. Won’t be winning any awards, but clearly wasn’t setting out to. It wanted to establish a world and be entertaining, and on these metrics, it succeeded.
Casting: The big three of Jake, Roland, and the Man in Black are all amazingly well cast. The kid they got to play Jake is consistently convincing, and he doesn’t fall into the annoying kid actor trap that so many other similar characters do *coughcarlandzachcough*. There’s a noticable progression to his character as he makes the shift from world he’s familiar with but out of place in to world he’s unfamiliar with but actually belongs in. Idris Elba is, unsurprisingly, an excellent Roland Deschain. He starts the film hard as nails, broken, and bitter, and as things progress you see him accept the role he has to play and him gradually softening to the weird kid that follows him around. Matthew McConaughey is fantastic as the Man in Black. While a seemingly one dimensional villain, he plays it with gusto. This version of Walter is like a wonderfully terribly combination of McConaughey’s prior role of Rust Cohle and Christopher Walken’s stint as Gabriel. There’s a handful of somewhat recurring supporting cast, including a surprising number of familiar faces. Much like Star Trek or Star Wars, the supporting cast do a great job of delivering even the weirdest lines related to the world and plot as if there’s nothing out of place. This is the world they know.
The writing is solid, but nothing to write home about. They do a good job of laying out the pieces of the puzzle and referencing strange parts of the different worlds mostly without long winded exposition. The movie does a lot of showing instead of telling which, depending on your tastes, could be a positive or a negative. Despite the fact that the movie hopes to lay the groundwork for an expanded franchise, they do a good job neatly tying up the primary plot of the film so you don’t feel like you were cheated out of an experience, while leaving enough loose threads to follow for fans of the existing franchivse, or people who liked the world this movie built. If this is the end, it is a satisfying end. If it’s the springboard, it’s an excellent springboard. Time will tell.
Cinematography was great. There were a few parts where things got just a bit too dark (the worst offender being the theme park), but for the most part things are visible, kept in frame, easy to follow, and makes great use of the scenery and settings. They do a great job showing that Mid-world is the long crumbling ruins of a world not unlike our own populated by only the remnants of society. In contrast, the parts on our Earth are busy, clausterphobic, and vibrant, creating an very neat dichotomy between the two. The action scenes, while frantic, are well shot and easy to follow. Even when the camera cuts quickly, they do a good job following the action along its return path. They gunfights play out like an interesting combination of Equilibrium and A Fistful of Dollars.
Taken as just a strange high-concept sci-fi western, I’d give it a solid 7/10. It’s solidly constructed, relatively easy to follow for the layman, a nice sweet 90ish minutes long, full of good action and interesting characters. At worst, it’s a good popcorn movie. At best, it’s a great starting point to hook people into a larger world.
As a huge Dark Tower fan? I’d give it an 8/10. It is up to its eyeballs in nods, references, easter eggs, plot threads, hints, and teasers. I know for a fact I probably didn’t even catch half of what was there to see and hear. There was rarely a moment where I didn’t make some annoying noise because I saw something really clever.
And because some assholes just GOTTA know, as of this writing is is an 18% on RT: Certified See If I Fucking Care What They Think.