The Dark Tower - Gunslinger, gunslinger, gunslinger.

August 5, 2017

Full disclaimer, I've not read the book from which The Dark Tower is based, but after seeing the movie, consider my interest peaked—though not necessarily in the way you'd think.



The Dark Tower casts an unlikely duo tasked with saving the world. Er, worlds. Whatever. Our main protagonist (whose name I can't quite recall, nor are really interested in looking up) is a kid that has visions of impending doom. While the catastrophic events of his dreams don't manifest in his own world, similar events tend to echo when they occur (e.g. earthquakes). Of one of these worlds lives a lone wanderer (Idris Elba) in search of redemption and vengeance by way of shooting everything. The main, and basically only, antagonist lies in Matthew McConaughey's man in black. For whatever reason, there's a tower (a dark one, even!) that protects several worlds from imminent destruction, and McConaughey seeks to alright, alright, alright his way to its downfall.


That's more or less the gist of it, and although I may not have chosen the most colorful of words to describe the plot, I found a lot of it to be conceptually interesting. And therein lies my main gripe. The Dark Tower does a fairly decent job of drawing viewers in close, and building up anticipation—much in the way that good books keep you in suspense until the next page. It's when we turn that page that the reality of the movie sets in.



The locales that our main characters traverse are mostly muted in color, and void of interesting pieces. There's an attempt to diversify things a bit, but it starts to tire quickly as we transition from a generic desert, to generic forest, and so on. In that same vein, costume design does little to separate from that same visual theme. (Hooray for consistency, I guess?) That being said, the overall visuals were still mostly acceptable. Forgettable, but non-obtrusive.


Changing gears to the characters that occupy said costumes, and trek the aforementioned locales—we're met with some uninspiring results. The movie wastes no time in throwing a kitchen sink full of movie tropes that make up the entirety of the first act. Up until Jake (the kid's name, who I happened to just look up) makes his way to a different world, I counted exactly one surprise moment, and even that I felt was completely unnecessary and a waste of screen-time.



As for the high-profile names that were supposed to carry the film to success, they performed about as well as they could, despite the vanilla dialogue. In what could've been a fascinating 90 minute character building journey (see: Logan, 2017) for Idris Elba's gunslinger, we instead get a basic setup, some motives, and not much else. Most any opposition that shows up serves solely as cannon fodder and bullet sponges. Even the final showdown against the main in black ends up feeling uneventful and hokey. (Imagine John Wick versus Magneto. Actually, I take that back, because that sounds amazing.)


Meanwhile Matthew McConaughey's character feels like an afterthought—a means to a very boring end. Ideally, villains serve as an opposition driven by legitimate motives that just happen to clash with our main hero. I'm sure there's a backstory for him in there somewhere, but he mostly comes off as simple-minded with a side of lukewarm chaos. Despite that, they are the highlights of the film. However, that doesn't really say much since every other character is preoccupied with either stating the obvious, or asking rhetorical questions. (Or better yet, saying gunslinger more times than Gatsby says old sport.)



My lasting feeling after letting the movie sit for about a day or so is: half-glass-full. The idea of multiple unique worlds will always spark my interest, and exploring each of them and getting to meet their denizens is a cinematic treat. The Dark Tower gives audiences a feeling that there's something greater over the hill, but the payoff never really shows up. Aside from the slickest reload animations you'll see, most everything else is unremarkable.


Looking for a shoot-em-up set in a historic backdrop? Maybe try Van Helsing. How about a menacing and visceral man in black? Westworld has you covered. The Dark Tower is almost too safe of a movie, and in doing so, does nothing to set itself apart. In better directorial hands, I'm sure things could've turned out differently, but instead we've got what feels like the cliff-notes version of a great piece of literature.





1-2: Horrendous, wouldn’t recommend watching even if free of charge.
3-4: Potentially has some good ideas, but overall still lackluster.
5-6: Average, a decently good time; go see it if it's free.
7-8: A solid recommendation, and well-rounded film; warrants a purchase after home release.
9: No glaring flaws; deserves to be watched multiple times.
10: Masterful, must-see; filmmaking at its finest.

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