As Stephen King fans will already know, The Dark Tower is a series of eight sci-fi/fantasy/horror/Western novels written by King between 1982 and 2012. Sprawling, witty, and complex, the stories (which also weave in characters from some of King’s horror novels and short stories, and even feature an appearance from King himself) were often considered for movie adaptations in the past, with director Ron Howard and Lost creator JJ Abrams among those who attempted to translate the books for the big screen. However, the project ultimately ended up with writer/director Nikolaj Arcel, and sadly the end result will disappoint both King fans and moviegoers looking for a decent evening’s entertainment.
King’s detailed story has been stripped down to this: there are parallel worlds to our own, and all of them are linked by a central tower. If this tower is destroyed, the universe will no longer be protected from the creepy creatures outside and it will crumble. It was up to a group of people in another world named Gunslingers to protect the tower, but now there is only one left – Roland (Elba). He’s determined to kill sinister magician/evil dude Walter, aka The Man In Black (McConaughey), partly because Walter wants to bring the tower down. Meanwhile in New York, a boy named Jake (Taylor) has been having dreams about both of them.
One of the biggest problems this movie has is the feeling throughout that we’re only getting to see a portion of the story. Action sequences are over before they’ve begun, back stories are forgotten, motivations never explained and actors pop up far too briefly (Dennis Haysbert, Jackie Earl Haley), leaving you to wonder whether many of their scenes, and much of the plot, was left on the cutting room floor.
While Idris Elba is terrific and there are some nice references to other King stories (watch out for nods to The Shining, It, 1408, etc), this never becomes tense or exciting throughout its brief 96 minute running time. Matthew McConaughey – who should have been so great as the Man In Black (who is also known, in The Stand part of the King universe, as Randall Flagg) – is given little to do but prance around in a tight black shirt and trousers, with bouffant black hair that would look more at home on the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom than some never-explained otherworld. We never really get quite why he wants to destroy the universe (erm, wouldn’t it mean he’d end up dead, too?), but thanks to the choppy direction and lack of story, we don’t much care anyway.
Is The Dark Tower suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
This is a 12A certificate in the UK and is aimed at older children and adults and is not suitable for the under-12s. There are gunfights (though few injuries are shown), and threat to children throughout.
Younger/sensitive viewers may be frightened by the demon creature that breaks through and attacks Roland and Jake.
There is also an attack in an abandoned house where Jake is in danger and an attack on a village, in which people are killed and burned.
An early scene has The Man In Black killing a character with fire, which may upset those under the age of 11.
While it is not seen, one character’s death may upset young viewers.
Sensitive viewers may find the Man In Black frightening.
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