The Adaptation of Stephen King’s ‘The Dark Tower’ Is Mediocre at Best
Stephen King appears to be in vogue again (but to be honest, when isn’t he?), and the latest screen adaptation is a loose one at that. Based off of the eight book series of the same name, “The Dark Tower” is a broad, and very simple, introduction into what could potentially be a vast universe.
Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) is a kid from New York who has visions that include images of human beings wearing skin masks, a hero known as the Gunslinger and a villain portrayed as the Man in Black. While he very much believes these visions to be real, his mother (Katheryn Winnick) is less than enthused. Exhausted, she decides to send Jake to an asylum. But the smart young boy realizes the people who came to take him away are directly related to his visions.
The curious and ambitious young boy slowly discovers a different reality through an unknown time traveling port, which takes him to a deserted wilderness. There he meets Roland “The Gunslinger” Deschain (Idris Elba). Together they work to defeat the devilishly sleek Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey), a.k.a. Walter.
The chemistry between Elba and Taylor is imperative to the film’s success. Taylor respectively holds his own against the British veteran actor, which leaves room for a few comedic moments to seep in. In fact, the film hinges on the relationship, as it would completely fail without it.
McConaughey provides a confident performance as the Man in Black – a character who’s set on taking Jake, as his pure psychic powers hold the key to unlocking a darker world – one where monsters roam the world.
King is, well, the king of building layered worlds. Whether it be a desolate hotel in the middle of snowy Colorado, or the multiverse landscape served up during the apocalypse. The author has the innate storytelling ability to create unique and extravagant settings. In that sense, “The Dark Tower” feels slightly lackluster. While the “apocalypse” begins to hit New York City, the result is less than cinematic and feels like somewhat of a shortcoming. However, a tightly choreographed gun-slinging scene towards the climax saves it from being a complete dud.
One can only wonder why director Nikolaj Arcel seemingly holds back on the fantastical monster elements of the film. Nevertheless, the few glimmers of spectacle are glorious. If only there were more.
“The Dark Tower” is the latest Stephen King adaptation to hit the screen. Just this year alone, work from King’s canon has served as the inspiration for Spike TV’s ten-episode miniseries “The Mist,” and the highly anticipated Warner Bros. clown horror film, “It.” The latter film broke records for receiving the most views on a trailer in 24 hours. Not to mention the upcoming Hulu series, “Castle Rock,” which takes place in the Stephen King universe.
Industry rumblings, multiple re-edits, and poor test screenings suggested that perhaps the highly anticipated, nearly decade long wait for “The Dark Tower” wouldn’t be as desirable. But the finished product is quite pleasing, albeit simple. The 95-minute runtime doesn’t delve much into the world that King set up in the books. The film version offers a much less complex universe. “The Dark Tower” isn’t the sharpest King adaptation, but amongst the summer lineup of underperforming franchises, it will suffice and mildly entertain.
“The Dark Tower” opens in theaters Aug. 4.