The Dark Tower REVIEW

The Dark Tower REVIEW

0 comments 📅23 December 2017, 00:11

“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” So begins Stephen King’s epic series of Dark Tower novels, and the first character to be mentioned there almost saves this film. Matthew McConaughey’s extended presence as Walter – AKA the man in black – is the only major benefit of the rewrites that have finally brought this seven-book series to the screen.

McConaughey presents Walter as almost an ordinary evil, spreading malicious thoughts everywhere he goes, but ramps his status up to sorcerer supreme when needed, with a lot of tricks up those elegantly tailored sleeves. The only thing more impressive than McConaughey’s performance is his understanding of the character, as shown in the featurette The Man In Black. That interview should be the standout bonus feature, but hearing him read two key passages from King’s series is simply divine.

Unfortunately, there’s a huge disconnect here for fans of King’s novels. “I always felt when watching someone attempt to do the movie or the TV show like it’s never going to happen, you’re never going to get there,” says director Nikolaj Arcel in an interview on the disc. “Because there’s so many worlds, so many genres, so many ideas, so many pages basically.” Sadly, this movie version is a shade of the original tale.

Part of the problem is that the book built its world slowly, revealing its secrets over a long period of time, whereas here the audience needs answers from the start. The Dark Tower also told the story of Roland (Idris Elba), the Gunslinger, and used travelling companions such as Jake (an impressive Tom Taylor) to flesh him out, rather than focussing on them to such a large extent. Here, Roland’s character is also greatly changed, because in the book he isn’t just a man out for revenge, he’s as driven to save the tower as he is to kill Walter – the last man standing against the darkness.

It’s not really the actors’ faults. They simply don’t have the script they need to raise this up, which given the source material is absurd (although there are some nice little character moments in the deleted scenes). For example, Roland’s gunslinging skills are as impressive as the man in black’s magic, forcing the script to hamstring him for much of the film so he can’t blast his way out of every situation.

The production design similarly hits some targets but misses others. A lushly created apocalypse captures a world that has moved on, yet CGI demons made flesh are not as scary as intended, falling short of the kind of imagery created in a reader’s mind.

King’s fans will delight in finding Easter Eggs, such as a Pennywise attraction in the woods, a toy version of the car from Christine, or a child’s ‘shine’, but will wonder why the all-important rose appears on the Blu-ray menu, yet is not found in the film. King himself pops up in featurette Last Time Around to provide some much needed background, although there’s some repetition of this, as an edited version of what he says then appears on other bonus features.

The result is a passable tale for those not steeped in this world, but a huge missed opportunity for those who are. Having lost so much of its power, the biggest hope is that The Dark Tower leads people back to the source material, in the way the hugely successful comic version did, to give them a real treat.

Release: Out Now
From: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Format: DVD, Blu-ray, 4K Ultra HD
Age Rating: 12
Price (RRP): £19.99 (DVD); £24.99 (Blu-ray), £29.99 (4K Ultra HD)

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