REVIEW: ‘The Dark Tower’ raises one question: Why?

The Art of Nerding Out

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“The Dark Tower” is a strange hodgepodge of a movie. It’s a continuation (not a straight-up adaptation) of Stephen King’s iconic “Dark Tower” book series. It boasts one of the coolest actors in movies today, Idris Elba. The concept is great. But it’s also rife with clichéd, one-dimensional characters and choppy, indecipherable plotting.

And it inspires one main thought: Why? Why go the sequel-to-the-books route, rather than just adapt one of the books? Why do so little to explain the world, so the story makes more sense? Why spend so much money on a project that will likely alienate “Dark Tower” fans and doesn’t seem to appeal to anyone else? WHY?

“Tower” brings us into the world of Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), a kid tortured by terrifying dreams of the Man in Black — (Matthew McConaughey) — and scary people doing scary things. Things get worse when the people Jake has been dreaming about come to take him away.

Jake finds his way to another part of the universe, where he meets Roland Dechain (Elba), a former Gunslinger, sworn to protect the universe from evil. Dechain takes Jake with him to help him find Walter, who turns out to be the Man in Black from Jake’s nightmares. Can they stop Walter from destroying the universe?

This movie has a lot going for it. First and foremost, the world is cool. A multiverse tied together by a black stone tower the staves off evil? Awesome, and full of possibilities. Elba is imminently watchable. McConaughey is an Oscar-winning performer. The movie boasts some epic visual vistas and one heck of a cool final shootout.

And yet this film is exceedingly mediocre. Too much isn’t explained, so it’s hard to understand why things are happening the way they are. What is motivating the Man in Black and his minions? Why do they want destroy existence? What about Roland’s history? The movie doesn’t bother to tell us.

Or maybe it did and it wasn’t engaging enough that I noticed. That’s down the characters. Elda’s character is mysterious, which hooks us. His performance is full of world weariness and devoid of hope, which is perfect for the characters. The rest of the characters are flat stock characters, with the exception of McConaughey’s Man in Black, who is cheesy enough to top a pizza.

It might have helped to give this movie to a director with more experience making big sci-fi action movies. Nikolaj Arcel, an import from the Danish film industry, hasn’t helmed a big blockbuster franchise flick before, and he seems to be in over his head. He doesn’t seem to have a handle on the story, as the movie’s narrative feels like too much was left out, and things don’t really make sense.

On the plus side, he does give us a pretty good final showdown, although it recalls plenty of other movies we’ve already seen, like “The Matrix”. But that’s not nearly enough to make “The Dark Tower” any better than tolerable. It’s not the worst movie ever. It’s not even the worst movie I’ve seen this month. But it is the very definition of average, and given that it’s not even respectful to the source material, not even fans of the books are likely to enjoy this.

2 ½ Indy Fedoras out of 5

MPAA Rating: PG-13

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