The Dark Tower

Year: 2017
Studio: Sony
Director: Nikolaj Arcel
Writer: Akiva Goldsman/Jeff Pinkner/Anders Thomas Jensen/Nikolaj Arcel/Stephen King
Cast: Idris Elba, Matthew McConaghuey, Tom Taylor, Dennis Haysbert, Jackie Earle Haley, Abbey Lee

There was probably no way a 90 minute movie script could ever boil down enough books to break the straps on a backpack if you carried them all together and offer much depth or nuance. It also seems The Dark Tower was written intending to make it easy for people not familiar with the themes and mythology of the series an easy way into it.

Unfortunately, from what I know about King's epic, it's all about the themes and mythology, taking its time unfolding and unravelling them. It makes the cinematic outing for The Dark Tower even more bland, because it feels like they've left out not just a lot of plot but a lot of that intricacy. The result is an oddly inert story built on every cliché and trope you know from a lot of other action/adventure/fantasy stories.

New York kid Jake (Tom Taylor) has always been weird, dreaming of a mysterious man roaming a wasteland with a six shooter, a man in black and a giant tower somewhere that somehow represents the fate of the universe. He draws the tower obsessively while his mother and therapist think he's just experiencing trauma after the death of his father a few years before.

When some psychiatrists come to visit Jake at home pretending to be escorting him to the new school that's going to know what to do with him, his Mum is as encouraging as she can be. But when Jake sees that they have the same creepy removable skins he's seen on monsters in his dreams he knows there's nothing wrong with him after all. He hightails it out of the apartment, suddenly aware that his visions of the tower, the other worlds and the monsters and creatures that inhabit them are real.

One step ahead of the minions who work for Walter the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey), Jake finds a portal to another world and the truth of his universe is opened up to him. He meets the Gunslinger, Roland (Idris Elba) finds out that the dark tower is real and that the Man in Black wants to destroy it and rule the universe and that Roland – after losing his father to Walter – might be the only one who can stop him.

Walter's forces chase Roland and Jake from Midworld back to Earth and when it turns out Jake's psychic powers are stronger than any kid ever, Walter knows he needs Jake more than anything - his method of destroying the Dark Tower is to kidnap psychic children from across the realms of the universe and channel their energy into a giant laser beam that arcs across the sky to blast the tower.

So yes, it's as silly and perfunctory as the above description makes it sound. In King's hands (and with an entire series of stories to develop the necessary extent of world- and mythology-building) it probably makes a lot more sense and has a lot more dramatic weight, but here it all just feels exactly what it is – the glossed-over, rushed footnotes of a much longer story.

There are some fight and action sequences and a couple of laughs that will grab your notice, but there's just no room for anything else. Unfortunately, the poster with the upside down tower silhouetted against the skyscrapers of Manhattan is the only good part of the whole thing.

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