‘The Dark Tower’ Review: What The Hell Happened?

The Dark Tower is so astoundingly awful that when you leave the theater you’ll likely be less mad you wasted your time than flabbergasted that something like this could a) happen and b) be released as something that, theoretically, is going to launch a multi-platform franchise. The Dark Tower has been in production for around ten years in some form or another. This final product reminds me a lot of the GOP healthcare plan: You’ve had all this time and THIS is what you come up with? I can already picture John McCain strolling into a theater this weekend, giving a dramatic thumbs down, killing The Dark Tower forever.

The Dark Tower is, of course, based on a popular series of books by Stephen King. I have never read these books but people I trust swear they are good. I am curious what someone who has read the books will think of this movie. Will it make sense? Because I can tell you if you haven’t read the books, the plot is incoherent. I’ve been told that The Dark Tower books are jam-packed with dense plot, wonderful characters, and a sprawling mythology – which is what made the movie so hard to make for all these years. Well, the solution seems to have been to just scrap all that and release a shockingly short 95-minute movie that just kind of glosses over everything to the point that has any meaning or purpose.

Honestly, I just can’t get over how much of a disaster this movie turned out to be. I’m flabbergasted. (I’ve used that word twice now, but it’s true and I am.) In trying to think of another movie The Dark Tower reminded me of, the closest I could come up with is Jonah Hex. And there’s a better-than-average chance you’ve never seen Jonah Hex so that reference is probably lost on you. I digress.

Directed by Nikolaj Arcel from a script by Akiva Goldsman and others, The Dark Tower opens with children playing, an ominous siren goes off, then the children report to some sort of basecamp so that Matthew McConaughey’s The Man in Black can hook them up to machines and use their brainwaves as a weapon to attack the Dark Tower. I have a few questions here the movie never answers. Does this process kill the children? We are never told. Why does The Man in Black want to destroy the Dark Tower? No clue, except that “he’s evil” and the Dark Tower is getting in his way of being evil for unexplained reasons. Oh, also, the brainwaves of children might destroy the Dark Tower, though it hasn’t worked yet, but The Man in Black keeps trying.

Then we meet young Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) who has visions of The Man in Black and The Gunslinger (Idris Elba, the only good thing in this movie). You see, he’s special – and because he’s special The Man in Black wants to hook ol’ Jake up to his brainwave machine and take another crack and destroying the Dark Tower. But before that can happen, Jake finds a portal at a house in Brooklyn that takes him to the interdimensional world where The Gunslinger lives, and where he eventually decides to protect Jake from The Man in Black.

The cinematic version of The Man in Black is an awful character. He just shows up everywhere out of the blue, whispers words like “stop breathing,” and whoever hears these words acts on his command. He seems to have unlimited, unexplained powers – yet still sends untrustworthy lackeys out to do his bidding, then gets mad when they fail. The only person he can’t seem to defeat is The Gunslinger, which is explained in a throwaway line that The Gunslinger can resist The Man in Black’s magic for some reason. (McConaughey could have easily just have shrugged and said “That guy, LOL” and it would have had about the same effect.)

I’m going to be honest with you: I kind of want you to see this movie so I have more people to discuss it with. Right now, I feel like a crazy person spouting about some upcoming Biblical doom. I want people to see this movie so you can see the same horrors that I did and try to make sense of them. See, that’s the thing: I want to make sense of this so that it can’t ever happen again. I desperately want to know how something that seems like such a surefire idea can go so terribly wrong.

I am fascinated with The Dark Tower movie. And I am even more fascinated with the idea that this movie will somehow sell people on an all-encompassing franchise. So, yes, go see The Dark Tower so we can all learn from it and try to be better despite of it.

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