Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba in The Dark Tower
Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba

THE DARK TOWER. Directed by Nikolaj Arcel, with Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor, Dennis Haysbert, Jackie Earle Hayley.


Despite rich source material The Dark Tower film version feels rather lifeless.

Nowhere near as bad as the online reviews trying to ‘out vie’ the next reviewer’s delicious use of adjectives suggests – this urban fantasy is more ‘megh’ than truly bad. More a boring let-down than a truly craptastic cheesefest that at least creates a drinking game.

It draws on Stephen King’s series of books and instead of making the story a duel between gunslinger Roland (Elba) and the Man in Black, Walter (McConaughey), it is now centered on a young boy named Jake (Taylor).

In our world Jake has dreams about a gunslinger striding through his nightmares while a dark tower is being destroyed. The teenager discovering there are indeed multiple universes, and the fact that his dreams are real, is what drives the narrative.

Jake runs into Roland while trying to get away from some creatures who want to kidnap him, and then the older man lets the kid tag along.

While Elba and McConaughey try hard to create interesting characters all their work disappears into a dark hole of moving the story along. Action sequences featuring close quarter fighting are difficult to parse and any time Roland and Jake discover a new place they do not have enough time to explore before they are forced to run off. So, all the world building on the part of the filmmakers is rather lost.

Here Roland’s nihilistic drive from the books becomes a taste for revenge while Walter’s impetus is never explained. Instead we get a Roland who has forgotten the face of his father (ok, that bit does hark back to the book) and a Man in Black who wants the end of the worlds because… well because.

Yes, The Dark Tower book series has no true ending and it is supposed to be about boys learning to be men, but King never wrote Young Adult fantasy, which is what this film is trying to be. Director Nicolaj Arcel has interpreted ideas from King’s sprawling fantasy to put his own spin on it and it really helps if you didn’t read the books.

At least the kid at the centre of the film is sweet and endearing and has good chemistry with the Roland character – so you don’t start wishing some ugly creature would just eat him and be done with it.

Plus it is fun to play ‘Spot The South African Actor’ – great work there Nic Pauling, your character is a douche and I almost didn’t recognise you.

What: The Dark Tower
Age restriction: 10-12 PG V
Running time: 91 minutes
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