Thursday, 17 August 2017

Film Review: The Dark Tower

Nikolaj Arcel’s rehash of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series is a load of mishandled hogwash.

From The Shining and Carrie to The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption, Stephen King’s library of novels and stories has served as the basis for a whole range of excellent cinema over the years.

Until now, his self-ascribed magnum opus ­– The Dark Tower series, a sprawling eight-book saga that melds dark fantasy, science fiction and Western into one potent melting pot – has gone unadapted, largely because it is so large in scope and deep in lore.

The solution concocted by its quartet screenwriters and director Nikolaj Arcel is to strip the series back to its basics; you’ve got a gunslinger named Roland (Idris Elba), the last in a long line of Arthurian guardians defending the titular tower, and a magical sorcerer called Walter (Matthew McConaughey), who seeks to destroy the tower and rule over the resultant chaos with Machiavellian glee. Tying them together is a young boy from Earth called Jake (Tom Taylor), who sees visions of the tower crumbling and sets out to help Roland on his quest.

Rather than formulating a straightforward adaptation of the first book, Arcel’s film acts more as a remix of the entire series as it borrows elements and ideas before mixing them together into a trim 90-minute film. And while this approach could work in theory, the reality is that Sony has somehow taken one of the most beloved fantasy book series’ of all time and cobbled together a boring, bland and generic action-adventure film that belongs at the bottom of the bargain bin. 

Given its rich pedigree, The Dark Tower is bafflingly immaterial; the world, its characters and their conflicts aren’t explained or explored even in the slightest. We’re told that Jake is the key to protecting the tower, but not why. We’re told Walter wants to destroy the tower, but not why. We’re told Roland is impervious to Walter’s magic, but not why. The script is so busy trying to compress King’s ideas into the trim runtime that is doesn’t stop to answer silly questions like why, how, who and what the actual fuck is going on. 

In trying to cater to both fans and newbies, The Dark Tower succeeds in pleasing neither. Newcomers aren’t going to be dazzled by its ordinary execution – we’ve seen this derivative junk a million times before – and the film is too far removed from its source and scant on lore for fans. It’s akin to pressing all seven Harry Potter novels into one film where the only characters are Harry, Dumbledore and Voldemort. 

Everything on the screen is just so drab and lifeless; the cinematography lacks panache, the acting is flat, the score is barely there and the editing borders on incoherent. Worst of all, reshoots appear to have played their part with Taylor magically aging up and down from scene to scene. 

I would say The Dark Tower is so bad it belongs on TV, but in an era where shows like Game of Thrones, Westworld and Outlander consistently showcase how quality fantasy can be done on the small screen, that analogy simply doesn’t hold up. 

The Verdict: 2.5/10

All told, The Dark Tower is banal and derivative to a degree scarcely believable; maybe it would have worked as an HBO or Starz series, but in its current form it’s just an inert glob of nothing that rates up there with the worst of the year.

The Dark Tower is in cinemas across Australia from today.

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