The last Gunslinger, Roland Deschain, has been locked in an eternal battle with Walter O’Dim, also known as the Man in Black, determined to prevent him from toppling the Dark Tower, which holds the universe together. With the fate of the worlds at stake, good and evil will collide in the ultimate battle as only Roland can defend the Tower from the Man in Black.
Based on Stephen King’s series of novels, and from director Nikolaj Arcel comes The Dark Tower, with Matthew McConaughey, Idris Elba, and Tom Taylor in the lead roles of this urban fantasy/western tale spanning across worlds.
The film opens with a brief nod to the setting, as a set up for audiences not familiar with the source material and an insight to the films main focus. The first act is well constructed with sound world building, the context and manner of key character Jake’s life is explored while sowing the seeds for the larger story to begin to take place.
Unfortunately however it becomes quickly apparent that there is far too much material to articulate effectively in one film, for every plot point that is well established there are others that are glossed over or too abridged to give the audience any real sense of what’s happening on screen. The film strives to introduce a number of concepts, characters, key events, while progressing its main narrative, most of which is told in the most abbreviated manner possible.
Its main characters appear shallow, their motivations either non-existent or are simply poorly explained, plot hooks are raised and then dropped for the remainder of the film, and while someone with the context of the novels may well extrapolate more from the film, for someone without that existing understanding the film fails to engage.
Despite such a problematic story, it sets an intriguing tone, it raises interesting concepts that are ultimately unsatisfying but notable none the less. The western fantasy setting is refreshing in a big budget feature film, and visually the film has great production values. Playing heavily into the western genre the action is solid without being memorable, and while the material is lacking the cast are all sound in their roles.
Idris Elba is an inspired casting choice for the series, his performance can carry the weight of the film when it needs to, and he’s easily convincing in the lone gunman/reluctant hero role. McConaughey really doesn’t have much to work with, but acting sinister he can do and here he does it with a natural ease, his performance could have easily descended into chewing scenery but he’s restrained. Tom Taylor makes his feature film debut here and while the script doesn’t tend to rely on him heavily in a dramatic sense, he is sound in his role and complements Elba’s performance well.
I find it hard to see where this film is going to find an audience, it’s an unfulfilling story to those unfamiliar with the source material, and while those who do know it might take away more from the film, it’s likely to be inadequate in that it feels so shallow. No doubt if the film reaches a magic revenue number there will be more stories to come in this universe, and perhaps they’ll prove to deliver a more effective tale but for now, I’m giving The Dark Tower 6.5 out of 10, you can see it in cinemas around Australia from 17 August, 2017.