"The Dark Tower" is the perfect movie for 14-year-old boys. It's about a 14-year-old boy named Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), who's pursued for his psychic ability by Walter, AKA the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey), while being protected by Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), better known as the Gunslinger.
Jake's real father, Elmer Chambers (Karl Thaning), a fireman in New York City, was killed in an horrific blast less than two years earlier. Now Jake, an accomplished artist, is experiencing truly awful dreams which he relives through his drawings.
His mother, Laurie (Katheryn Winnick) and stepfather, Lon (Nicholas Pauling) are convinced Jake should spend a weekend away at a camp for troubled boys. Jake is adamant that the two people who come to collect him are the "skin people" in his dreams, so he perilously escapes through a portal and ends up in Mid-World, where he stumbles upon Roland, the Gunslinger.
Mid-World is home to the Tower, the ever-most frightening image from Jake's dreams. Jake learns that Roland is the last of the long line of Eld. The Gunslingers were the peacekeepers of the Tower, thus protecting the universe. Walter is attempting to destroy the Tower by using the minds of helpless children. Should the Tower fall, the universe would cease to exist. To put an end to Walter's nefarious plan, Roland and Jake must return to New York City.
"The Dark Tower", based on the books by Stephen King, is directed by Nikolaj Arcel, who was obsessed with King's eight-novel epic growing up in Denmark. Arcel credits King for teaching him English, which he had to master in order to read King's novels. Upon becoming a director, Arcel was determined to be the one who turned his favorite epic into a movie.
Knowing all of this now, it makes it even more shocking that Arcel's efforts are merely adequate, not spectacular.
The film is indeed dark, but not in a good way. There is much death and violence, particularly gun violence. It is unsettling that a 14-year-old boy is shooting a handgun with such accuracy, whether it's fantasy or not --- especially in our current "open-carry" environment.
Both Elba and McConaughey have such a strong presence on screen, which elevates "The Dark Tower". They are fierce competitors, vying for every last bit of the audiences' attention. I greatly admire them both. I simply wish the screenplay by Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, Anders Thomas Jensen and Arcel was better written.
These four writers come extremely close to my utmost cardinal sin --- waiting too long before the almost certain demise of a main character. Uh uh uh --- a big no-no. Either you're going to kill them off, or you're not, but be quick about it.
Yes, boys of all ages, but mostly 14-year-olds, will flock to see "The Dark Tower". Taylor is exceedingly good and deserves a lot of credit for holding his own with Elba and McConaughey. He's a talented cutie --- we'll be seeing a great deal more of him.
Opinion: Wait for DVD
Not having read Stephen King's book series "The Dark Tower", I can't say unequivocally that this movie version by the same name is the weakest adaptation of his novels. But I can surmise that this could be the case.
Other films based on King's works, like "Cujo", "Christine" and of course, "The Shining", were faithful to the author's fertile imagination, and for me at least, it was cinema magic to see his stories come to life on the big screen. But "The Dark Tower" movie is less than compelling, dare I say even boring in parts.
Matthew McConaughey is the primary villain Walter/Man in Black. Idris Elba is the protagonist named Roland Deschain, a.k.a. the Gunslinger. Despite the presence of these two stars, the movie is a rather ho-hum affair. Neither actor brings an urgency to his respective role. Unfortunately the script falls flat --- and we, the audience, feel no sense of urgency, either. The fault lies with the group of writers, which includes Akiva Goldsman, Oscar winner for "A Beautiful Mind".
Walter is described as a sorcerer, and he holds sway over anyone and everyone simply by telling them things like "don't breathe", or merely touching them so they do his bidding. When he walks by a little girl in Central Park talking with her mother, he utters one word --- "hate". The girl's face turns into an icy glare of malice and malevolence, actually quite an effective look by the youngster. It's a unique take on a villain's mastery of evil, and it's telling that this brief moment is one of the few aspects of "The Dark Tower" which stayed with me.
Roland is not effected by Walter, which explains why he is the last of his kind, so their climactic duel awaits in the finale. The final shootout, though, holds no surprises, even for those of us who have not read King's eight-part series.
This brings us to Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), the youthful schoolboy whose dreams of a dark tower and all things associated with it, plus his bizarre sketches, induce his widowed mother Laurie (Katheryn Winnick) to send him to a special camp for troubled (insert real meaning -- "crazy") children. The problem is he never makes it, running away from the two scary representatives who come to his home to escort him away. Taylor is quite good in the role, only his second feature-length film. When Jake's mother runs into Walter --- never a good thing --- he reacts like any boy might who has a close relationship with his mother, especially his only surviving parent. And Jake's interaction with Roland is believable, a credit to Taylor's screen presence.
Jake ultimately enters into the nether world of the dark Tower where he meets up with a skeptical Roland. After Jake survives being suspended over a cliff by Roland, the two quickly bond. Their mission of destroying the Man in Black, thus protecting the Tower, which maintains the universe, is under way.
Do we care? Not so much. Thankfully, the film has a short running time, so at least director Nikolaj Arcel doesn't prolong the agony. Arcel, to his credit, helmed the tense "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" (2009), but there is no suspense in this movie.
Opinion: Don't Bother!