The Dark Tower is a film that we’ve had our eyes on for some time. I’m a big Stephen King fan, and though I’d only ever managed to get halfway through The Gunslinger — the first book in the series — I’d always admired its ambition and its loyal fanbase. If the film could somehow find a way to provide a palatable entry point into the dense franchise, it’d be a job well done. however, there were a few red flags along the way.
The trailers, to me, skewed to the underwhelming side. Nothing about it got me terribly excited (not even the gun-toting action from Idris Elba). The incredibly short runtime was also a potential problem. How could you even begin to tackle the mythology with such a short film? Sure, the plan is to continue with more films and a TV show, but at a brisk 100 or so minutes, it almost felt like they weren’t even trying. My biggest concern, however, was how the trailers seemed to over-simplify the whole good versus evil deal. The way it treated those two ideas felt straight out of something like the original Power Rangers show. It felt cheesy and disingenuous.
The straw the broke the camel’s back was the fact that there were on screenings for the film until last night. Sadly, none of us were able to make a screening, but plenty of other outlets did, and we decided to round up some of the reviews. While not all of them are negative (Variety gave a somewhat positive one), they all seem to confirm all our fears for the flick.
EW – Darren Franich
Bad dialogue, lame plot, fine. The bigger issue: How could a film with Elba and McConaughey have so little swagger? “The Man in Black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed,” goes the perfect first line of King’s first story. There’s your cinema: Darkness, wasteland, gunslinger. You could watch that tableau for hours: It’s a Sergio Leone movie in twelve words. Director Nicolaj Arcel tips his hat towards the original cinematic inspiration — a movie theater in the background promises “Spaghetti Week at the Majestic!” But The Dark Tower doesn’t want to be a western, barely spends any time in the desert, barely spends time anywhere, really. The plot is needlessly busy, cut to death at 90 minutes; whenever the pace lags, Arcel cuts back to the Man in Black’s control room, where people tell him things like (paraphrasing) “We’re trying to find the psychic” and “We’re still trying to find the psychic.”
TheWrap – Dan Callahan
Most of the scenes in The Dark Tower feel like a desperate compromise of some kind, and often there seem to be scenes missing that would simply get us from one point to another. With fantasy material like this, we need to be made to believe in the inventions and the conceits, and we cannot do that if they are shot and staged in such a truncated and perfunctory way.
THR – John DeFore
Though far from the muddled train wreck we’ve been led to expect, this Tower lacks the world-constructing gravitas of either the Tolkien books that inspired King or the franchise-launching movies that Sony execs surely have in mind. Though satisfying enough to please many casual moviegoers drawn in by King’s name and stars Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey, it will likely disappoint many serious fans and leave other newbies underwhelmed.
indieWire – Kate Erbland
The Dark Tower is startlingly low on both energy or any larger sense of magic or a wider world beyond whatever Jake is able to experience. While Elba and Taylor make a fine match, and the film picks up tremendous steam once they’re paired together, the script’s aim to keep things as lean and tight as possible mean they’re forced to rush through a complex story that deserves much more than a time-strapped take that gets significantly less interesting as it goes along.
Variety – Owen Gleiberman
The Dark Tower has been plagued by tales of last-minute re-editing and multiple cooks in the kitchen, but the movie that’s come out of all this is no shambles. It aims low and hits (sort of). It’s a competent and watchable paranoid metaphysical video game that doesn’t overstay its welcome, includes some luridly entertaining visual effects, and — it has to be said — summons an emotional impact of close to zero. Which in a film like this one isn’t necessarily a disadvantage.
What do you think of these reviews? Will they dissuade you from heading to the theaters, or will you stick it out, regardless? Let us know your thoughts down below!
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