Genre: Action and Fantasy Running Time: 1 hr. 35 min.
Release Date: August 4th, 2017 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Nikolaj Arcel Actors: Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor, Katheryn Winnick, Jackie Earle Haley, Abbey Lee, Claudia Kim
colossal skyscraper built from black stone stands in the center of the universe (though it must be on a specific planet, since it springs from the ground and soars above clouds), inexplicably protecting countless worlds from unspeakable darkness. But it’s said that the power of a child’s mind is all that it takes to topple it. And so a mysterious man in black (Matthew McConaughey), also called Walter, captains an organization that seeks out human children to be kidnapped and strapped into a machine that can funnel their psychic powers (called “shine”) into a laser blast that arcs toward the sky and into the uppermost portions of the dark tower. His goal is to bring down this sole barrier, allowing otherworldly demons to infiltrate and destroy … pretty much everything.
Fortunately for humankind (which is the only species adequately represented in the film), a young New Yorker named Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) has psychic capabilities beyond anything seen so far, suggested through his uncanny dreams of fake-skin-wearing infiltrators and his sketches of alien worlds. This leads Walter to abandon his child-snatching efforts in favor of capturing Jake alone. But an equally mysterious man (Idris Elba) in an old black leather duster (dressed a bit like a neo-Western cowboy) comes to the rescue, slinging six-shooters and brandishing a firmly fixed grimace.
The impending hell on Earth isn’t given much of a definition, though it appears to come from a steady source of scientifically unexplainable earthquakes. Likewise, very few other details are tendered about anything – from the superpowers of the various protagonists to the sorcery of the various villains. Reality is tested, as if everyone might be a participant in “The Matrix”; portals appear in various locations like something from “Doctor Strange”; the familiar realm of New York clashes with the extraterrestrial nature of a centrally located, alternate dimension, in an arrangement reminiscent of the adventures of Harry Potter; and the terrain of the mid-world, along with its pockets of tattered resistance fighters, feels like a combination of “The Hunger Games,” “The Maze Runner,” and “The Lord of the Rings.” Essentially, every single component of “The Dark Tower” is as generic, recycled, and uninspired as its stale title.
Barrages of strangeness (such as a wood monster or the spontaneous ability to slow down time) are so poorly defined that they lack all significance to the heroes. More effective are the brief sequences in which Elba’s gunslinger samples a hot dog with Jake, or when they visit a hospital and must conceal his weaponry, as these moments allow for some humor and the fascination of alien entities immersed in foreign cultures (not unlike the Terminator in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”). But the main focus is instead on action and fantasy, with trackers and assassins, seers and visions, and mind control and plucking bullets from midair. It’s all part of a trite, silly premise of protecting the universe from ultimate evil, with salvation placed in the hands of a child with a gift – a chosen one.
“I heal fast.” War, vengeance, a fallen hero, and vanquishing darkness just don’t appear important when originality, cleverly scripted characters, and impressive fight choreography are all utterly absent. What are the limitations of a single bullet? What exactly is the Dark Tower and who built it? What are the race of gunslingers supposed to be? How did a random boy attain extraordinary powers? And why are the special effects so unconvincing? So much about this film is undefined and unexplained, making it little more than a heavily abridged template for a routine fantasy thriller. Substance, worthwhile details, and character development are so abridged or bare-bones that the epic feel that Stephen King’s multi-novel source material was hoping to transfer to the big screen is exasperatingly lost.
– Mike Massie