This review was written by Anthony J Digioia. Follow him and his website here for more awesome reviews: SilverScreen Analysis
“The Dark Tower” is directed by Nikolaj Arcel and stars; Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor, Jackie Earle Haley, Katheryn Winnick, Dennis Haysbert and Abbey Lee. This is the film adaptation of the novels created by Stephen King.
The story follows the last Gunslinger played by Idris Elba who has been endlessly battling Walter O’Dim also known as the Man in Black, played by Matthew McConaughey. A man who wields insurmountable levels of mystical powers, that is determined to topple the Dark Tower. A structure that holds all the universes together. At the same time, a young boy names Lucas played by Tom Taylor is having reoccurring dreams of a dark world beyond ours. Something no one believes, but he soon becomes entangled in this battle as well.
I was a blank slate when going into this one. I have not read any of the books, or comics. I knew nothing about this fantasy world created by Stephen King. Nothing about the overall premise, the characters, or the story-arcs. But I love Stephen King’s work, so naturally I was interested in what this film would bring regardless of the routine summer movie vibe that the trailers conveyed. It also felt like a film that was themed for a younger, or more general audience. As it had a clean, overly polished look, for something that felt much more dark and gritty in terms of subject matter.
Early on though the film had me engaged. It was introducing some interesting concepts and providing more than enough foundation for a creative, enjoyable action-adventure with a unique premise. But after about twenty-minutes the film felt like it kicked into auto-pilot. It began to follow the common summer movie formula. With the routine character dynamics, and simplistic story-arcs and it quickly became clear, to me at least, that the ambitious source-material this film created itself from, would not be explored with much depth.
Like I said, I knew nothing about this material prior to watching. Yet the film was predictable, and easy to forecast in terms of the directions it would inevitably take. The last time I checked I didn’t have ESP so that would have to mean the story did not try to dive into the deeper elements of this material. Seemingly taking the theme to just drape over a summer movie template, slapping it together with some marketable stars, packaging it with some CGI and sending it off to theaters. With the story-line never feeling like it tried to incorporate the layers to this story that were without a doubt present in the novels.
Let’s get into the performances. They were luckily pretty good. Idris Elba however, was awesome as the Gunslinger and he delivers a strong performance. One fitting of the character he portrayed. I completely bought into his persona and he sells it with charisma and a lot of energy. Regardless of the directions the story took him. Tom Taylor as young Lucas Hanson also brings in a great performance. He feels natural and at ease with his role and it does translate to a character to you gravitate to and connect with. He also creates a strong chemistry with Elba. Their relationship growing throughout the story-line was the one memorable aspect of this film overall for me.
Now as for Matthew McConaughey, he has his moments in this one. He was charming when he needed to be and does provide the story a subtly eccentric, and charismatic villain. But he also had some moments that did not land for me. So, his performance overall was decent given the development and progression of his character. In my opinion McConaughey is at his best as a character actor. He can transform himself into a role and deliver it to amazing results. If a character has depth, and some deep seeded emotional turmoil, McConaughey is certainly up for the job. Now if you want someone that will stand in front of a giant green screen and movie their hands and body to things that will be added with computers later, he may not be your best choice.
As his character progresses, and by the time the routine third-act showdown begins, where a lot of the CGI comes into play McConaughey started to taper off for me. He felt out of place doing what he was doing, and without some deeper material in the script to work from, he comes across as slightly overacting at times. He also felt like his persona from the Lincoln car commercials, maybe after a few martini’s and a bad hair coloring at the salon. But in the end, he was not bad in this film at all and does help provide some enjoyment that the generic story progression failed to create.
Another surprise to me was the action. Surprised it didn’t really show more ambition. There were times the CGI went from being good, to being decent, with times where it was not so good. Also, Elba was great in the action-sequences but some of the stylistic reloading was a little cheesy and didn’t really have me engaged in what was happening at all. There was that cool scene from the trailer where he swings his guns and catches the bullets, and he did have a couple other fun moments. But there were some chuckle-worthy sequences as he is basically swinging his guns by his belt and with some quick editing, is supposed translate to him reloading. But like I said it’s a summer adventure movie that skims the surface of the source-material and tries to appeal such a wide audience it doesn’t ever truly capture one.