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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Sep 4, 2017

The Dark Tower Movie Review: Uninspired Movie Version Of Stephen King's Series Of Eight Novels

‘THE DARK TOWER’ is a series of eight novels published from 1982 to 2012 and considered to be one of Stephen King’s more serious works. Attempts to film it started a decade ago but it’s only now that a film about it was finally completed.

The movie centers on an 11-year old boy, Jake (Tom Taylor), who lost his fireman dad while on duty a year ago. He has a very strong psychic gift and is having visions of the evil Man in Black or Sorcerer (Matthew McConaughey) who wants to destroy the earth and also of The Gunslinger (Idris Elba), who is the Sorcerer’s foil and has a personal ax to grind against him for killing his father (Dennis Haysbert.)

Jake sketches the figures in his dreams and keeps a collection of his illustrations. The Sorcerer kidnaps gifted children and uses them to destroy the Dark Tower, causing frequent earthquakes in our own planet. He now wants to capture Jake to exploit his enormous psychic gift in demolishing the Dark Tower, a monolith where the power of various parallel universes is centered, so that he himself can rule all the other universes.

Jake shows his drawings to his mom (Katheryn Winnick) who won’t believe him and thinks his dreams are the just the result of his losing his dad, as attested to by the psychiatrist who they consult. Jake escapes from an attempt by the henchmen of the Sorcerer to kidnap him and he later gets to an old home in Brooklyn that turns out to house a portal to an alternate world where he eventually meets the Gunslinger and, later on, the Sorcerer himself.

The film is presented like a sci-fi flick combined with a western, with plenty of shoot outs and fight scenes versus evil entities. If you’re not a fan of the novels, we believe you’d be properly entertained as everything is presented with fairly stunning CGI effects. But if you are an avid fan, you’ll question the decision of the filmmakers on why they made the appear more like just a sequel to King’s series of books. Here, Jake becomes the central character and not the Gunslinger, who’s the lead in the novels. Actually, “The Dark Tower” would be better off as a mini-series where the novels’ situations can be expanded, rather than as an uninspired full length two-hour film.

Here, The Gunslinger and the Sorcerer become the usual familiar representations of the eternal fight of good versus evil that we’ve seen before in other action and adventure films. The Gunslinger crossing over to present day New York City and not even knowing what a hotdog is offers some funny fish-out-of-water situations.

What saves the movie is the performances of its lead stars. McConaughey is persuasive and obviously enjoyed hamming it up as the totally bad guy who is so powerful he can just order someone “Don’t breathe” and that person suddenly drops dead. He has an effortless screen presence and is matched by Alba’s equally charismatic portrayal of the Gunslinger that lends much gravitas to the otherwise predictable movie. The boy Tom Taylor is also quite outstanding as the troubled lad who people think is crazy.

The film is directed by Danish director Nikolaj Arcel (best known for the 2012 “A Royal Affair” starring Alicia Vikander, who eventually won an Oscar, and for scripting the original “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”) who claims he learned to speak English so he can read Stephen King’s novels that are not translated into Danish. His movie version is sadly underwhelming, a thriller with very few thrills, and fails to offer anything beyond the usual escapist fare.

It suffers in comparison to King’s other works which have a loyal following as he is already a proven brand in his own right, which is not surprising after the huge success of his books turn into movies like “The Shining”, “The Shawshank Redemption”, “Misery”, “Carrie”, “Stand by Me”, and many more.

There’s a new movie version of King’s “It” due in theaters soon. We’ve seen its trailer in theaters already and here’s hoping that it will be a better realized work than “The Dark Tower”, a potential franchise film that didn’t really get off the ground as it’s a highly anticipated movie version that simply falls flat.