“The Dark Tower” is a missed opportunity and I have so many questions concerning the production of this film. For one thing, was this a TV pilot? When I heard before seeing this film that the running time is a mere ninety-five minutes, I already took it as a sign that this movie might be bad. “The Dark Tower”, Stephen King’s magnum opus series of eight books, has a lot of stuff in it. I don’t expect the first film to have everything in it, but a film starter like this could have been a new “Lord of the Rings” film type series. There is no shame in taking beloved books and making them television series anymore, as shown by the adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods” or George R.R. Martin’s “Game of Thornes”. Some might even argue that we are in a golden age of epic television anyway, so why not just make a pay per view TV series out of this book series?
Even if this was a television series, the pacing of this movie was odd even if it was for television. Many of the scenes felt like set ups to films that might have been great. However, the word to describe them is rushed. This movie doesn’t take a minute to breath. Even so much that even writing a review of this film isn’t allowing me to get to the part where I explain the basic plot to the reader. The plot starts with a kid named Jake, who lives in a New York City apartment with his mom and step dad. Played by Tom Taylor, the kid who plays him isn’t bad at all. In the fact, for the most part, the actors really aren’t the problem here. The child actor who plays Jake comes off convincing as a kid who’s a bit off. The movie starts with his dream of kids at some kind of weird camp where they are hooked up to machines and drained of power to power a tower.
Once again, all good stuff. Another scene has him sadly putting up drawings of scenes from his dreams. Once again, cool “Twilight Zone” type stuff Stephen King is famous for. However, within a couple of minutes, he figures out there’s an old house in Brooklyn which he suspects might be a portal to another world of his dreams, and he needs to run away from his mom who wants to introduce him to two people who run a school in upstate New York for special kids. Once again, this is a big problem in the film that is twofold. Jake is an interesting character, and I kind of want to see what would happen if he was in a special school in upstate New York. That’s interesting.
However, he is already on the run, and basically, we don’t get to know anything about his life beyond what I just mentioned. Before we know it, he finds a portal in an abandoned house. After a couple minutes, he’s already in a desert with the gun slinger Roland, who is played well by Idris Elba. Idris Elba, a guy who constantly has pain on his face, with a gun is in the desert and woods commenting on the ruins of civilization. They start their “Lord of the Rings” type journey to a village that is in danger, towards the Dark Tower.
But meanwhile, there’s another character, Randall, played by Matthew McConaugley who didn’t seem to know what to do with the role. He just walks around, talking in a flat voice like that’s enough to be “evil”. He wears a hood, he can kill people with a touch, he tells them as they are dying that there is no afterlife and he makes kids turn against their parents by simply walking past them. It ends up that school in upstate New York isn’t real, and it’s really him wanting Jake because it ends up Jake has the shining, another Stephen King reference. Yet, this movie can’t decide if it’s Stephen King diehards or people who are completely new to this material. However, the worst mistake a movie adaptation can make is just assume everyone read the book walking in.
However, there’s even more when Roland and Jake go to our world and do battle against Rolland to defeat his evil. They want us to believe Roland and Jake have a father son type bond now but like everything else in this film, it’s rushed. The pacing in this movie is weird. It’s so rushed, and it makes me wonder if they just threw together a bunch of openings to more compelling scripts together and threw the title “Dark Tower” on script. This movie has had a not so great history. In 2007, Ron Howard (still credited as a producer) gave a crack at this. He couldn’t figure out a way to make it work. So, then J.J. Abrams took a crack at this. He couldn’t find a way to make it work. God, if Howard and Abrams can’t make it work, I don’t think it’s going to work. Then they got a foreign director named Nikolaj Arcel, who I wasn’t sure was really well versed with the movie’s source material. Then Sony kept showing the film to test audiences, and according to the internet, after bad receptions, kept reshooting it to the point the kid looks older at the end of the film even though it’s supposed to take place over a couple days. Sony ended up spending four million dollars reshooting this film.
This film is accredited to five screenwriters, which is usually a bad sign. However, “Spiderman: Homecoming” is accredited to six screenwriters, and somehow pulled off a coherent and lovable film that took cues from John Hughes. I don’t know how exactly they screwed this up. There is no shame in today’s world of making epic books into TV series, and considering how “The Dark Tower” is considered a modern “Lord of the Rings”, I think slowly doing this over a couple years as a TV series might have served the material better.