Second Sight: The Dark Tower and the Killing of a Sacred Cow

Diehard fans of literary titan Stephen King rejoiced when it was announced that not only would a treatment of his masterpiece IT would be gracing the silver screen, but that the stars had finally aligned to allow for a feature film of his sprawling, cosmic epic The Dark Tower to be produced in the same year. The last several years have created a dire, dog eat dog climate for blockbusters. The rise of cinematic universes has rewritten the game, making any non-franchise venture an extreme risk, even with the rabid fanbase of an author such as King. This high stakes environment has been compounded by the 24-7 lifestyle of the internet, with aggregate websites, film based communities, and armchair criticism rapidly changing the landscape to a point where a film is either D.O.A. or a masterwork long before it ever reaches general audiences. 

This dichotomy is usually defined by two essential attributes. The first, with respect to fans of the source material (be it novel, comic, video game, etc.), is the notion that the viewer may feel betrayed by the film because it presented the story in a matter that they do not agree with. Secondly, with respect to outsiders, is that often, many big budget experiences are loud incoherence, a storm in which even the initiated are left confounded by mediocre at best; egregiously subpar at worst, presentation. Nikolaj Arcel's The Dark Tower is the white rhino of awful's both. Stripping down the intensely layered elements of King's mammoth story to the basest of stereotypes and offering an offensively milquetoast cinematic experience, this is a film that will become iconic for its utter failure and blatantly uninspired production.

Roland is a gunslinger, a stranger with two magic guns who is hunting Walter, the Man in Black, because he killed his father. Jake is a random boy from Earth who finds a doorway to Roland's world and helps him stop the Man in the Black from destroying all of reality. The fact that a film called The Dark Tower can be summarized in two sentences is the first of many crimes that Arcel has in store for an unsuspecting audience. Idris Elba stars as Roland, desperately trying to save the film, let alone Mid-World. Whenever the script (written by four authors) gives him a chance, Elba is able to muster an expected level of swagger combined with a humorously alien persona that never gets a chance to grow before the criminally short running time demands another lackluster action sequence. 

Matthew McConaughey phones in a laughable turn as the traitorous Walter. Surrounded by minions who resemble Hot Topic floor models, his entire mission is conveyed to the audience through awkward exposition and random scenes that attempt to reinforce how evil he is, and yet even these instances of preposterous villainy are wasted. Within minutes, the question of whether or not the film is a campy satire is summarily executed by laughable attempts at seriousness, all of which wind through the torpor of McConaughey's performance as he slowly, inevitably moves towards a paycheck. 

There is nothing of merit that requires discussion. The fact that every action sequence in a film about a legendary neo-Arthurian knight with sword like six shooters is oppressively bland is adding insult to injury. There are no frames of genius or creativity in Rasmus Videbaek's cinematography, only a disquieting feeling that a SyFy creature feature has managed to make it to the big screen, leaving the viewer with a fragment of a great idea, not even a quarter. 

So, I'll see you at the Razzies?
Still in theaters now, The Dark Tower is one of the worst films of 2017 and a potent example of how not to adapt a story. Devoid of wonder and barren of any form of artistry, The Dark Tower is an overlong, 95 minute exercise in the murder of a fan base's dreams and the slaughter of cinematic creativity.

-Kyle Jonathan

Share the love.