THE DARK TOWER (7 out of 10) Written by Akiva Goldsman and Jeff Pinkner and Directed by Nikolaj Arcel; Starring Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor, Katheryn Winnick, Jackie Earle Haley; Running time 95 minutes; Rated PG-13 for thematic material including sequences of gun violence and action; In wide release August 4, 2017
The film adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower has been a long time in the making. Sprawling over eight books, the saga of the gunslinger Roland and Jake chambers against the malevolent Walter has kept fans engaged for over thirty of years.
But turning such an epic saga into a film is not without its downfalls. The movie clocks in at just over 90 minutes and the pacing felt a bit rushed. And my understanding is this isn’t a straight adaptation of any of the books but a continuation of the story. I can’t speak to that since I haven’t read any of the books, and most of my familiarity with the series stems from the Michael Whelan art I’ve stumbled across over the years.
And while I’ve seen many Stephen King adaptations, I’ve never seen one that packed as much action into a short span of time. Watching Roland (Idris Elba) slinging his gun around is certainly a sight to behold. It’s his only weapon against Walter, who can kill a person just by telling them to quite breathing. Idris Elba is equal parts vulnerable, having suffered personal loss and later an injury, and powerful in his ability to keep his hand steady under unspeakable odds.
I’ve never pictured Matthew McConaughey, who portrays Walter, as a villain, but he injects a coldness and creepiness into the character that makes one wonder how he will ever be stopped. And while I’m not a fan of McCounaughey (I’ll never forgive him for Sahara and his poor portrayal of Dirk Pitt), I thought he imbued Walter with the right amount of evil and charm. Again, I can’t say whether it’s faithful to the book character, but for me it worked onscreen. I also really want to know how he achieved that dewy complexion because, wow, I need his makeup artist’s secrets.
Jake is the usual kid-with-tortured-past-who-has-special-abilities, and he adjusts a bit too easily to encountering otherworldly creatures and portals to strange worlds. But again, that could be the rapid-fire pacing. However, in not giving him time to really marvel and gawk at everything around him, we as the audience lose the ability to really experience the strange lands of the gunslinger.
The film seems to offer a glimpse into strange new worlds, but it's the Cliff Notes version of the story, I'd imagine. I'll certainly put the books on my reading list to learn more about The Dark Tower and the people battling over it.
Overall the movie was fun and fast-paced It had some great action sequences. There it at least one nod to another King story hidden in the background. Fans more familiar with his work may find others. Worth a watch.