Written by: Trevor Gilliam
I’m not going to get too deep into spoiler territory. Catching an early screening of a film like The Dark Tower should feel like a serious privilege, and I think that, had the movie been awesome, I’d hold a bit more respect for the production. But this was one early screening that felt more heavy than enjoyable or entertaining.
Given the fact that the flick has yet to arrive on a grand scale (prepare for some early screenings tonight before the full-on arrival tomorrow) I’ll be vague where I can. That shouldn’t be a problem, as the points I’m going to look at aren’t necessarily reliant on what you do or don’t know of the film or the books.
So, here are five areas in which The Dark Tower fails pretty terribly.
5 – Phoned in Performances
I’m not entirely sure of how you cast performers like Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor and Jackie Earle Haley and get dull performances, but that’s the case here. Lines are delivered with pure boredom trickling from the creases of mouths. No one seems to be passionate about the characters they play. Idris Elba, of all people, even seems bored on a number of occasions. It’s almost as if those involved in the film just figured they could utter a few words and the green screen would make everything all better and nice and lively. Not the case, at all. McConaughey has proven (Reign of Fire, Killer Joe) that he can be a super menacing guy… but his intensity level is in the toilet. It hurts to say that, being such a fan, but by god it’s the truth. In a sprawling epic, you’d expect screenwriters to dump everything they’ve got into characters, and ensure the audience invests greatly in said characters. Somehow, it feels like the characters have the least importance in the film, and that just has me scratching my head.
4 – Suspension of Disbelief Won’t Get You Through This One
We all knew in advance that there was going to be some truly insane actions sequences in this flick. It’s The Dark Tower. The history is deep. The action has been bountiful in just about every Dark Tower book. But reading insanity on a page is different from viewing it on a screen. And when you see the preposterous tactics and techniques that Roland and The Man in Black utilize, you’ll be blown away, and not in a good way, at all. It’s more of a “you’ve gotta be kidding me” kind of way. Sometimes less is more, and I don’t think The Dark Tower needed to be neutered, I think it just needed to be trimmed back significantly. Roland doesn’t need to be an Olympic level gymnast who idolizes Neo in every sequence, and McConaughey could actually be a tad bit more engaged. Either way, there isn’t a sequence in the film that makes you think, “hey, that could actually happen!”
3 – What the Hell is Going On?
I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t read a single book in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series in years. In fact, the last book I did read was Song of Susannah, and that was probably 10 years ago. Just the same, the story itself just felt like a mash-up of every book I’d read… with some completely random stuff I didn’t read. Don’t expect the story told in the series starter, The Gunslinger, and don’t expect the story to pick up with one of the sequels in the series. This movie is just… kind of its own thing, with elements from every book tossed in the mix. In truth, it damages the fluidity of the story, and the story has really been “dumbed down,” for lack of a better term. Either way, if you’re expecting this one to feel coherent and follow the storyline presented in The Dark Tower, or even just The Gunslinger, be ready for some confusion, because everything and the kitchen sink is in here, and while there are certainly some doors left open to make superior sequels (please god let the improvements be massive), it feels as though we’re seeing a book in the franchise that hasn’t been released. As odd as that may sound.
2 – Where’s the Heart?
In King’s books, Roland Deschain is an exceptionally layered character. He’s edgy, he’s ruthless, he’s compassionate, he’s calculating. He’s basically everything one could want from a hero. In the film, though there are only a few sequences that showcase Roland’s humanity, his physical actions and demeanor end up blending into one single generic showcase. Where’s Roland’s heart? Where’s the intimacy behind the character? King most certainly slayed the Gunslinger character. He is in many ways the embodiment of good. On screen, he becomes a generic hero (with a few slightly anti-heroic traits) that could be spotted in any old action movie. As crazy as it sounds, Elba’s work in Prometheus feels infinitely more supportable, calculated and compassionate. Gone is that Elba for this gig, unfortunately.
1 – CGI Much?
One thing that has left me feeling pissed off for a few decades is bad computer generated imagery. But one would never anticipate CGI to be a problem in a picture that cost $60 million to make. Well, expect it, because the CGI is comically bad in this instance. It’s a step above SyFy level CGI, but about 3,000 steps behind the CGI of a film like Jurassic World. At times, we see creatures that look like poorly illustrated creations simple superimposed over the live-action image. It looks like work from a first year film student at times. It is absolutely befuddling, to keep it real with readers. I’m not sure how it can happen, but Sony somehow managed to drain all the life from the characters while draining all believability from the monstrosities that enter the frame.
I really wanted to enjoy The Dark Tower. I was excited to see it early, and had hopes that it might leave fans even more excited about the upcoming R-rated adaptation of It. After watching The Dark Tower, however, I’m now terrified that Pennywise and It may fall victim to some of the very strange deficiencies presented in The Dark Tower.
I suppose if you want a brainless trek through unbelievable sharp shooting and realm jumping, The Dark Tower might work for you.