As a hard-core Stephen King fan I’ve been surprisingly cold on his movie adaptations. It’s just that because King’s imagination can be so out there, it’s kinda tough to visualise some of the more crazier images he’s created on the cinematic stage.
For every good crack at his books (The Shining, The Mist, Stand By Me, The Shawshank Redemption – stand proud my brave boys) there are loads of awful dreck that misses the point entirely (Dreamcatcher, The Langoliers, Graveyard Shift – take a bow).
The Dark Tower deserved so much better.
King’s Sci-Fi/Western/Fantasy/Horror meta-magnum opus of Gunslingers, wizards, dimension hopping and killer trains was never going to be an easy transfer, but if done right could have stood shoulder to shoulder with such lush classics as Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy or HBO’s glorious Game Of Thrones.
Unfortunately, in the face of the daunting task of funnelling seven tomes into an appealing running time, that also makes an audience want to come back for more, the film makers seemed to have made their job easier but simply not bothering to try.
Scattering random plot elements from books 1, 2, 3, 4 and a surprisingly hefty amount of 6, the film desperately tries to hedge it’s bets and give the vaguest overview of the whole story in just 90 minutes, so to say the story or characters don’t really have room to to breathe is somewhat of an understatement as the whole enterprise is rendered positively asthmatic by all the quick cutting and bouncing around. Imagine someone trying to adapt Lord Of The Rings into one film while never having read the books but only having a drunk friend tell them the plot of the Ralph Bakshi cartoon as their only reference. That’s what it feels like.
Good points? As a King fan, simply seeing ANY of this realised, no matter how half arsed, is a slight thrill and despite the rather neutered script, Idris Elba excels as weary Gunslinger Roland Deschain, bringing just the right mixture of heart, weariness and bullet slinging badassery to really make you wish he could be cut and pasted into a better adaptation. The portrayal of his young companion Jake is spot on too and while Matthew McConaughey channels the usual basic wisecracking villainy into the evil Walter, he’s still a decent foil.
But unfortunately the whole thing reeks of a massive missed opportunity, of a studio completely misunderstanding the material and film makers unsure as how to wrestle such a massive story into an easy to process experience.
King fan or not, I’d give this a pass and wait for the upcoming IT adaptation instead.
Or to paraphrase the books: Go then. There are better movies than these.