Sometimes, you watch a movie and it makes you feel happy. Sometimes, you watch a movie and it breaks your heart. When I accidentally walk in on my brother watching White Chicks, it makes want to pour bleach in my eyes and stuff screwdrivers in my ears. But sometimes, you watch a movie and you just don’t feel. The movie doesn’t present you with anything good, nor does it present you with anything bad. It just sorta trudges along and when the end credits roll, you turn to your lady friend and ask, “Hey, what’s for dinner?” In a perfect world, she’d reply, “I’m for dinner.” In my world, her reply is always “burger king.” And said lady friend is, unfortunately, a guy friend. Regardless if it’s sex or burger king, you don’t actually think or talk about the movie, unless it’s part of your job scope.
The Dark Tower is one such movie.
I’m not even surprised. This movie went through developmental hell that lasted over a decade. At one point, J.J Abrams was supposed to bring this Stephen King eight book series to life. At another point, Ron Howard was set to make this a mega universe with interconnected films and TV shows. A lot has happened in that 10 year period, from Kevin Feige actually launching a successful cinematic universe, Leicester City winning the Barclays Premier League, Lee Chong Wei missing out on Olympic gold on three separate occasions, Donald Trump becoming president and Bran Stark going from being a creepy little peeping Tom to a creepy little disabled stoner. But of course, none of those are as important as Emma Watson baring her tities and me losing my virginity. But finally, after 10 long years, The Dark Tower upgraded from developmental hell, to production hell. Unfortunately, I ran out of jokes, so you can check out all the good stuff in a comprehensive article done by Variety.
Here’s the thing. Production hell does not equate to a crappy movie. Believe it or not, classic films like Back to the Future and Jaws went through production hell too. My favourite film from 2016, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, had its entire ending rewritten and reshot at the eleventh hour. So, I wasn’t too bothered with that. What bothered me was the fact that Sony only held the screening for this movie today, the very same day of its wide release. And that my friends, is a major red flag. It shows that studios aren’t confident with their movie; trying to prevent (what they assume would be) poor critical reception from turning audiences away. I had my fingers crossed, though.
This movie is proof that the age old saying about keeping your “fingers crossed” is absolute bullsh*t.
The next big thing?
Every studio is looking for their next Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. And The Dark Tower had the potential to be just that for Sony. Helmed by the acclaimed indie director, Nikolaj Arcel, The Dark Tower is a fantasy story that features kids discovering they have psychic abilities, portals that lead to different worlds, evil sorcerers, seers, and gunslingers. Sounds awesome, I know. Only, this movie seriously lacks the sense of wonder, joy, and discovery that can be found in good fantasy films. I’m talking about that feeling of glee and surprise you get when Hagrid tells Harry, “yer a wizard Harry!” Or having your jaw drop to the ground when we get a glimpse of the Great Hall in Hogwarts for the first time. It doesn’t have to be happy moments, either. Like the sense of panic and urgency we felt when Frodo is suddenly entrusted with a mission to carry the ring to the Prancing Pony, all while the Nazgul hunts him down, accompanied by Howard Shore’s majestic score. Even lesser films like Narnia had these type of moments.
The Dark Tower has none of that. When our lead character named Jake played by Tom Taylor discovers Mid-World, I didn’t feel anything. When we discover he has powers, I didn’t feel anything. When his mother chose not to believe him, I didn’t feel like screaming, “God dammit! Believe your kid, please!!” I should have felt that, but I didn’t. When we’re first introduced to Idris Elba as The Gunslinger, I didn’t pump my fist in the air. When we’re introduced to Matthew McConaughey as the evil sorcerer, my heart didn’t race in fear. The set designs? Equally stale. For a fantasy story, there is nothing remotely fantastical about what we see on screen.
The story is interesting. Of course, it is! It’s by Stephen King. There is a Dark Tower, which basically functions as a shield that prevents demons from entering the multi-worlds. In typical Stephen King creepy fashion, the only way to destroy the tower is by harvesting the energy from children’s mind, which is exactly what the evil sorcerer known as the Man in Black is up to. And, it’s up to a revenge-hungry-already-given-up-on-life Gunslinger and a psychic young boy whose dad had passed away, to put a stop to it. Apart from the journey of discovery, this had the potential to be a psychological thriller/horror, a family drama, and a cool action movie. Well, potential and reality are two very different things. Story and screenplay are two very different things. The screenplay, written by Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, Anders Thomas Jensen and, Nikolaj Arcel is one note. Nothing is explored. Oh, look, demon. Oh, look, magic. Oh look, kids’ are getting tortured. Oh look, someone died. Everything is touch and go. There are little to no moments where the characters just slow down and absorb what’s going on around them.
In fact, there are no character moments at all. There are people walking and talking on screen. There is a kid. There is the kid’s mom who looks like Natalie Dormer. There is a famous black guy, Idris Elba and there is a famous white guy, Matthew McConaughey. We’re told certain things via exposition. We’re told that McConaughey is evil. We’re told that Idris Elba doesn’t really care anymore. We’re told that if the Dark Tower is destroyed, life is going to suck. We’re TOLD these things. We don’t feel these things because the characters are one note too. There are no organic human moments. Every sentence someone says, every action someone takes, just feel like plot devices. There are a couple of moments in the film where Nikolaj Arcel tries to take the emotional route, but because we don’t care about any of these characters, these attempts at emotional moments feel unearned. The worst part is, even the action sequences are mostly flat. We get a couple of gun tricks from Idris Elba, which are admittedly pretty damn cool, but it happens right at the very end of the movie and lasts for a whopping two seconds. #TouchNGo
Both Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey are some of the best actors working today. But even they couldn’t make this movie engaging. I don’t get it. At the very least, Nikolaj Arcel should have allowed McConaughey to go full H.A.M on his McConaughey-isms. I guess just watching both of them on screen together mixed with the fact that this movie ends before I could check my watch, saves this movie from being balls. The Dark Tower is very, very OK.
If you’re a Stephen King fan, you might want to check this out. Then again, if you’re a Stephen King fan, you’ve probably already booked tickets to watch this opening night. If you’re not a Stephen King fan, then don’t bother with this. You’ll get a better bang for buck watching Spider-Man: Homecoming, Baby Driver, Dunkirk, War for the Planet of the Apes and to a lesser extent, Atomic Blonde and Vikram Vedha.
Hey, you! Yes you, hot stuff. Are you planning to catch this movie? And what’s your favourite Stephen King adaptation? Leave a comment below and let me know whatchu think.
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