The Dark Tower – 2017

Director Nikolaj Arcel
Screenplay by Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, Anders Thomas Jensen, Arcel based on the series by Stephen King
Starring Idiris Elba, Matthew McConaghey, Tom Taylor, Claudia Kim, Fran Kranz, Abbey Lee, Jackie Earle Haley

If there is a giant sucking sound that followed the long-awaited and feared release of the film version of The Dark Tower, it’s been the steady stream of negativity that the press could not wait to heap upon this above average, only mildly disappointing tent pole. Many who approach the film as a straight across translation of the book series will be confused. Word has it that the events of the film take place after the King series, with the premise that Gunslinger (Alba) is in some sort of time loop.

Luckily for me, I never made it out of the first book. So my mind is open to what they want to show me without the expectation that they hit certain points or deliver anything other than a man with two guns chasing down the evil walkin’ dude (McConaghey).

For those two aspects, I was entertained.

McConaghey gives a great performance that outpaces those around him. But he’s supposed to, because who has more charisma than the personification of evil who has traipsed through Kings novels with many names and one goal?

Alba, the primary reason I still wanted to see the film after initial negative press, gives me a good portion of what I had hoped he could. His charisma is hampered by being the one in pursuit, but he is the coolest with a gun since Keanu Reeves.

I know, It hasn’t been that long since Reeves held a gun.

What I like about the film is that sets the premise. We have a young boy named Jake Chambers (Taylor) with “The Shine” (yes, the same one as Danny Torrence) who is about to cross paths with Walter Padick and Roland Deschain. These, of course, the two antagonists that dominate his dreams since he watched his father killed by the former.

Walter, The Man in Black, has a habit of killing parents, along with many others. He is seeking a child to help him break down the Dark Tower of the title because it will break down the barrier between people who live in every part of this universe and the bad things that want to do them harm. Well, the bad things that aren’t there already.

Deschain is the last Gunslinger, who’s lost all hope and is more bent on revenge than saving anyone at this point. Being a hero is a hard habit to break, and we will get to see the flash of his barrels plenty.

The relationship between the boy and the Gunslinger is pretty routine, with some good points, fewer bad ones and one completely touching scene after a tragic revelation. None of the top billed trio is as disappointing as the legions of completely disposable television level actors that pass through the screen around them. I’m talking about the extras on Star Trek level disposable. Or even worse, Star Trek Insurrection level.

Even Jackie Earle Haley is wasted in a role that seems like might have been more significant in the book series. He’s here and gone quicker than it takes for one to figure out if Earle is his middle name or the first part of his last name.

The thing about it is the film stands as a starting point for a tv series as well as future movies. So if characters pass by now, they can move forward and back and catch up with the characters later in the endless loop to which they seem tied.

Will they get a chance to move forward with either or both?  I hope so. Alba and Taylor are already signed. There is plenty to learn about this myriad of characters and places to which they are all connected. In this way, the filler tv characters make more sense.

It also makes this movie seem more disposable than it probably should, though. When there is so much at stake, one would hope they could come up with a more established director than Arcel, who is more competent than memorable. I am not even sure producer Ron Howard could have advanced this material much more. JJ Abrams likely could have.

So what are we to make of this film? If nothing else, think of it as an addition to everything you know about the other adaptations, with a hope that they make more to flesh it all out a little. What I saw so far worked for me as a mild form of entertainment. It would be much better if it is followed up with more. And much sadder if they don’t.

(*** out of *****)

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