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Review: The Dark Tower

The Dark Tower
08.02.2017
4 10

PLOT: When his apocalyptic visions of a mysterious “Man in Black” (Matthew McConaughey) come true, young Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) must turn to the enigmatic Roland Deschain (Idris Elba) - the last of the “Gunfighters”- for help.

REVIEW: Fans of Stephen King’s epic “The Dark Tower” series, and they are legion, are in for a bad time at the movies. Eagerly anticipated to the point that dozens of hardcore King fans were turned away at the promo screening I attended in Montreal, THE DARK TOWER is a muddled mess of an adaptation that plays like someone wrote a young adult novelization of a couple of the books, and that was turned into a movie.

Virtually nothing about this makes any sense, and I’m speaking as someone who’s only read the first book of the series - which I think would make me more inclined to like it than most as I don’t really have anything to compare it to. Director Nikolaj Arcel, who co-wrote the script with the controversial (I’m being nice) Akiva Goldsman, tries to pack so much into the film, that at a mere ninety minutes, it feels like one of those YouTube fan edits of an entire series.

With a cheap look and bargain basement action scenes (with too dark lighting covering up dodgy CGI), no one seems to have had much faith in this as a franchise starter. This is despite some nods to King’s work sprinkled-in here and there, with a photo of the Overlook Hotel in a doctor’s office, a cuddly CUJO-esque St. Bernard in the street, and a red caddy toy that looks an awful lot like CHRISTINE, and seems to suggest a kind of shared King-universe (actually not a horrible idea). Word will be so toxic that THE DARK TOWER will be lucky to recoup its costs - ending the franchise before it even really begins.

That’s a shame, because while the execution is horrible, there are elements that work. The casting of the leads is pretty perfect. Idris Elba could have been iconic in the part had more care been taken, and he gives it his all. Tall and strapping, he looks like a classic movie hero, and has oodles of big star charisma. He’s a formidable guy, yet he also allows some vulnerability to come through once he’s paired with Tom Taylor as Jake. They actually seem to have affection for each other, which is a miracle considering how rushed their arcs are.

As The Man in Black, Matthew McConaughey has fun chewing the scenery, and has the right sense of malice and seductiveness, even though the character is badly handled by the filmmakers. He’s too easily dealt with, and why, being an omnipotent sorcerer, does he have a team of IT guys (led by Fran Kranz) working for him?

Outside of the leads, one of the things that works is a brief sequence depicting Roland as a fish-out-of-water in modern NYC, with Elba having a knack for stoic, deadpan humor. The score by Junkie XL is also quite serviceable, and works overtime to give the movie some sense of weight.

It’s really a shame that, after so many failed attempts, the version of THE DARK TOWER that finally hits the big screen is this watered-down mess. It’s as if they intentionally torpedoed the franchise, but, here and there, you get brief flashes of what could have been. As far as missed-opportunities go, this is a tragedy.


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4:23PM on 08/09/2017
I'm not sure what everybody was expecting from this movie, but I read the books and have seen the movie, and it is actually an enjoyable entry point for the story. I'm finding the review confusing because it seems to want to justify negativity over honestly reviewing a movie. The actors are great, soundtrack is fun, it's dark, occasionally humorous, and engaging; it gets this story started. I think it's funny that the reviewer only read the first book but claimed the movie didn't make sense;
I'm not sure what everybody was expecting from this movie, but I read the books and have seen the movie, and it is actually an enjoyable entry point for the story. I'm finding the review confusing because it seems to want to justify negativity over honestly reviewing a movie. The actors are great, soundtrack is fun, it's dark, occasionally humorous, and engaging; it gets this story started. I think it's funny that the reviewer only read the first book but claimed the movie didn't make sense; there is no way you could make sense of the Dark Tower saga in the first book, even King said as much. This is meant to get you interested, it's preliminary world building. By the way King's books are already interconnected, that's part of the point of some of the Easter eggs in the movie. And who says the Mani n Black was completely defeated? Watch the whole film next time Chris.
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1:02AM on 08/05/2017

Don't quite agree, but...

I'm not going to give excuses. The first half of this movie was a mess much like what Mr. Bumbrey said, but once they made the transition away from mid world I actually began to enjoy it. That is rather funny actually because it is the exact same feeling I got from the trailer. In the end, once you strip away the busy-ness of the first half of the movie, it did feel a lot like the first book which was short, simple and not thousands of pages. Just a man who needed something to get him back
I'm not going to give excuses. The first half of this movie was a mess much like what Mr. Bumbrey said, but once they made the transition away from mid world I actually began to enjoy it. That is rather funny actually because it is the exact same feeling I got from the trailer. In the end, once you strip away the busy-ness of the first half of the movie, it did feel a lot like the first book which was short, simple and not thousands of pages. Just a man who needed something to get him back on the right path. There were also a lot of nice nods to what might come if they somehow manage to make enough to get a sequel made. I hate putting numbers on these things, but I might say a 6.735 out of 10.

And why does he have a group of IT guys doing his bidding? Maybe because he has things he would rather be doing.
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9:47PM on 08/03/2017

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+1
7:42PM on 08/03/2017

These books were thousands of pages....

Meshing everything together in a two hour movie could never work. Heck, I just started reading the first book not long ago and just the opening setting was a story in itself. Not going the mini-series route was a horrible idea
Meshing everything together in a two hour movie could never work. Heck, I just started reading the first book not long ago and just the opening setting was a story in itself. Not going the mini-series route was a horrible idea
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7:16PM on 08/03/2017

LOL

I guess that rating right. This looks like some shit from 2003. Give me a break. 90mins, PG-13, a YA feel. Fuck this movie, Netflix I'll check it out on but I'll wait for IT.
I guess that rating right. This looks like some shit from 2003. Give me a break. 90mins, PG-13, a YA feel. Fuck this movie, Netflix I'll check it out on but I'll wait for IT.
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+0
6:21PM on 08/03/2017
"...and seems to suggest a kind of shared King-universe (actually not a horrible idea)".

Have you heard of the upcoming 'Castle Rock'?
"...and seems to suggest a kind of shared King-universe (actually not a horrible idea)".

Have you heard of the upcoming 'Castle Rock'?
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+0
5:03PM on 08/03/2017
Ive never read the books so I have nothing as a background. Nevertheless, a fantasy film about a gunsliger and a magician set in a modern world, it really needs to be perfectly written to work. The whole fantasy genre is quite tricky. See Lord of the Rings vs The Hobbit for example. Not even within the same "universe" you can take things for granted. And talking about franchising without testing the first movie, is just bullsh*t. What makes me sad is the fact that Elba and McConaughey are
Ive never read the books so I have nothing as a background. Nevertheless, a fantasy film about a gunsliger and a magician set in a modern world, it really needs to be perfectly written to work. The whole fantasy genre is quite tricky. See Lord of the Rings vs The Hobbit for example. Not even within the same "universe" you can take things for granted. And talking about franchising without testing the first movie, is just bullsh*t. What makes me sad is the fact that Elba and McConaughey are simply such talented actors given he right material.
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4:26PM on 08/03/2017
Why not just adapt The Gunslinger? It was short, simple, a great introduction to the universe, and moved along like a film. This should have been a no brainer.
Why not just adapt The Gunslinger? It was short, simple, a great introduction to the universe, and moved along like a film. This should have been a no brainer.
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6:43PM on 08/03/2017
yeah, im completely baffled they didn't go that way either. Sure, the later books get incredibly dense and complicated but The Gunslinger reads like a movie with a great blend of Spaghetti Western, Horror and Fantasy. Dumb move.
yeah, im completely baffled they didn't go that way either. Sure, the later books get incredibly dense and complicated but The Gunslinger reads like a movie with a great blend of Spaghetti Western, Horror and Fantasy. Dumb move.
2:09PM on 08/03/2017

Can't say this surprises me...

The books (8 of them, & called King's magnum opus) are a flea market of ideas and storylines. Very multi-dimensional and over packed with plot elements. To edit the story down to one feature film was a gamble at best. I would argue, undoable if you wanted to retain the context and journey of the tale. This was probably an attempt to caramelize the story and reach a stand alone conclusion to a story that could easily encompass 4 films. The reviewer notes that the film, "...seems to suggest a
The books (8 of them, & called King's magnum opus) are a flea market of ideas and storylines. Very multi-dimensional and over packed with plot elements. To edit the story down to one feature film was a gamble at best. I would argue, undoable if you wanted to retain the context and journey of the tale. This was probably an attempt to caramelize the story and reach a stand alone conclusion to a story that could easily encompass 4 films. The reviewer notes that the film, "...seems to suggest a kind of shared King-universe." That's precisely what the books do. Several characters and settings from his other books make cameos in Roland's adventure. It's like stuffing 10 pounds of crap in the proverbial one pound bag to whittle this down to a feature-length film. A shame. because there are some rich concepts in the story. And the choice of Elba for Roland was inspired. Although the tale is admittedly long and messy as originally published. I might suggest knowledge of the whole story would actually benefit a viewer, but I have to think it was a no-win scenario to make this film on this limited a scale.
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12:44PM on 08/03/2017
Wow, that's really too bad. Maybe one day I should do a double feature between this and Maximum Overdrive.
Wow, that's really too bad. Maybe one day I should do a double feature between this and Maximum Overdrive.
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11:49AM on 08/03/2017
As someone who has never read the books, and hasn't seen the movie yet, while I wasn't expecting a 4/10, I never got the sense that they (the studio) were trying with this. This always felt like the sort of gamble where the people at the top were hedging their bets. Maybe The Dark Tower wasn't meant to be watered down into a YA adaptation, but take something like The Hunger Games, and like it or not, there was a clear vision that they were going to adapt the books, and make it work. The rumored
As someone who has never read the books, and hasn't seen the movie yet, while I wasn't expecting a 4/10, I never got the sense that they (the studio) were trying with this. This always felt like the sort of gamble where the people at the top were hedging their bets. Maybe The Dark Tower wasn't meant to be watered down into a YA adaptation, but take something like The Hunger Games, and like it or not, there was a clear vision that they were going to adapt the books, and make it work. The rumored Dark Tower TV series Ron Howard's talked about is the sort of ambitious idea that's never been done before. I think they took the wait-and-see approach, when they needed to take the all-in approach, like they did with LOTR, or Marvel.
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10:17AM on 08/03/2017

You'll walk out angry

Movie fucking sucked. Nothing about it worked. It was all over the place and felt like 10 different ideas smashed together. It's a really bad movie and not even in a fun way.
Movie fucking sucked. Nothing about it worked. It was all over the place and felt like 10 different ideas smashed together. It's a really bad movie and not even in a fun way.
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8:29AM on 08/03/2017

Shocker

When news hit recently that the studio, the production company, and King all had veto power over anything to do with the film, you KNEW it had to be a mess.

Let HBO run it as a miniseries. Same for Watchmen, even though I liked the movie, it rushed through the story.
When news hit recently that the studio, the production company, and King all had veto power over anything to do with the film, you KNEW it had to be a mess.

Let HBO run it as a miniseries. Same for Watchmen, even though I liked the movie, it rushed through the story.
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8:15AM on 08/03/2017

ouch

well there goes another failed franchise starter, you think Hollywood would catch on by now. This is a grand shame cause I love the source material and those two actors - they all deserved better. So weird that they would axe potential development in the past then greenlight this seemingly half-assed version
well there goes another failed franchise starter, you think Hollywood would catch on by now. This is a grand shame cause I love the source material and those two actors - they all deserved better. So weird that they would axe potential development in the past then greenlight this seemingly half-assed version
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8:02AM on 08/03/2017
Wait, so Stephen King hated the script and this is actually not good. Thats a first.
Wait, so Stephen King hated the script and this is actually not good. Thats a first.
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7:51AM on 08/03/2017
Had a bad feeling about this one. No posters or trailers on it till very late in the game. Also virtually no buzz on the film among the online set.
In fact it is almost like the film did not exist till just a few weeks ago.
Had a bad feeling about this one. No posters or trailers on it till very late in the game. Also virtually no buzz on the film among the online set.
In fact it is almost like the film did not exist till just a few weeks ago.
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7:41AM on 08/03/2017

Not surprised

They should have let HBO turn this into a show. Well at least the actors got paid so we got that going for us.
They should have let HBO turn this into a show. Well at least the actors got paid so we got that going for us.
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7:01AM on 08/03/2017

Sad, but not surprising...

Clarification to Chris Bumbray: King considers his universe "shared". He's said so in interviews, and the books reflect it. The "Man in Black" in the Dark Tower was (retroactively) re-written to be the same Randall Flagg as in The Stand. He never did it as well as H.P. Lovecraft, but it's there nonetheless.

Anyway, thanks for the review. While I hate to see it fail, this thing never felt "right" from the very announcement. I guess I should thank you for saving me time and money. What
Clarification to Chris Bumbray: King considers his universe "shared". He's said so in interviews, and the books reflect it. The "Man in Black" in the Dark Tower was (retroactively) re-written to be the same Randall Flagg as in The Stand. He never did it as well as H.P. Lovecraft, but it's there nonetheless.

Anyway, thanks for the review. While I hate to see it fail, this thing never felt "right" from the very announcement. I guess I should thank you for saving me time and money. What a shame thought.
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+0
3:11AM on 08/03/2017
How did this go from an epic multi-film series with a complimentary prestige TV show to a (relatively) cheap knock-off with the always telling lack-of-faith runtime of 90 minutes? It's being put out as little more than a VOD release at this point. What the hell happened?
How did this go from an epic multi-film series with a complimentary prestige TV show to a (relatively) cheap knock-off with the always telling lack-of-faith runtime of 90 minutes? It's being put out as little more than a VOD release at this point. What the hell happened?
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5:05AM on 08/03/2017
What we see is actually what was planned when Ron Howard was attached to direct. The script is pretty much the same, although they wrote out some of the more iconic scenes from the books. Maybe it was always doomed to fail in this format?
What we see is actually what was planned when Ron Howard was attached to direct. The script is pretty much the same, although they wrote out some of the more iconic scenes from the books. Maybe it was always doomed to fail in this format?
2:52AM on 08/03/2017
Elba is a leading man for TV not films. He is ok in small doses ala Heimdall but central characters like this or in Pacific Rim I don't just think he's a good actor and wildly overrated
No interest in seeing this film - Hollywood is in a bad place right now, everything is either a remake or long time coming sequel of a franchise reboot - no quality original content which is pretty depressing
Elba is a leading man for TV not films. He is ok in small doses ala Heimdall but central characters like this or in Pacific Rim I don't just think he's a good actor and wildly overrated
No interest in seeing this film - Hollywood is in a bad place right now, everything is either a remake or long time coming sequel of a franchise reboot - no quality original content which is pretty depressing
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2:25AM on 08/03/2017
Idris couldn't be Roland if he tried. Time to take stock, leave this steaming pile of turd for a while and reboot.
Idris couldn't be Roland if he tried. Time to take stock, leave this steaming pile of turd for a while and reboot.
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2:24AM on 08/03/2017
It's a Bumbray review people... That means to add 2-3 more to his number since it is lower than a 6.
It's a Bumbray review people... That means to add 2-3 more to his number since it is lower than a 6.
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7:11AM on 08/03/2017
If Chris is so off base, why is this movie getting a ridiculously low 18% on rotten tomatoes?
If Chris is so off base, why is this movie getting a ridiculously low 18% on rotten tomatoes?
10:19AM on 08/03/2017
Wrong, the rule is to subtract 2 points, not add any.
Wrong, the rule is to subtract 2 points, not add any.
1:33AM on 08/03/2017
Had ZERO interest in seeing this. Sorry it looked like a cluster fuck from the beginning. The casting was WAY off. Love Elba but sorry he is not and never will be Roland. This pig also started and stopped 100 times like no one knew what the fuck to do. You want to do the Dark Tower right? Give it to HBO to do after Game of Thrones is over. They know how to do epic tales that no one thinks possible to do.
Had ZERO interest in seeing this. Sorry it looked like a cluster fuck from the beginning. The casting was WAY off. Love Elba but sorry he is not and never will be Roland. This pig also started and stopped 100 times like no one knew what the fuck to do. You want to do the Dark Tower right? Give it to HBO to do after Game of Thrones is over. They know how to do epic tales that no one thinks possible to do.
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2:23AM on 08/03/2017
I agree 100%.
I agree 100%.
7:05AM on 08/03/2017
Excellent idea, re: HBO.

Agreed on the casting too. Hate to keep playing the 'race card', but it was never clear after they announced Elba how they would pull off the whole Roland/Susanna racial tension in the story. I suppose they thought it best to just drop it?
Excellent idea, re: HBO.

Agreed on the casting too. Hate to keep playing the 'race card', but it was never clear after they announced Elba how they would pull off the whole Roland/Susanna racial tension in the story. I suppose they thought it best to just drop it?
1:05AM on 08/03/2017
Thanks Chris. Now I definitely need to see the movie. Must be pretty good.
Thanks Chris. Now I definitely need to see the movie. Must be pretty good.
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1:24AM on 08/03/2017
This is sarcasm by the way because people always give him shit for his reviews by adding points or deducting.
This is sarcasm by the way because people always give him shit for his reviews by adding points or deducting.
10:21AM on 08/03/2017
The rule is subtract 2 if it's a Bumbray review
The rule is subtract 2 if it's a Bumbray review
12:38AM on 08/03/2017

Lel

Elba is great, but the stuntcasting is bullshit. Matthew should have played Roland. Looks awful.
Elba is great, but the stuntcasting is bullshit. Matthew should have played Roland. Looks awful.
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+0
12:38AM on 08/03/2017
Ouch. That's a damn shame. I was looking forward to this. Sounds like a miniseries would have been a better idea.
Ouch. That's a damn shame. I was looking forward to this. Sounds like a miniseries would have been a better idea.
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12:33AM on 08/03/2017
:(
:(
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12:14AM on 08/03/2017

Wind River for me this weekend.

Every time I saw a trailer for this movie it reminded me of the terrible years of Jonah Hex or Priest 3D. I was really looking forward to this having always wanted to read the books. I'm sure I'll catch it on Netflix at some point.
Every time I saw a trailer for this movie it reminded me of the terrible years of Jonah Hex or Priest 3D. I was really looking forward to this having always wanted to read the books. I'm sure I'll catch it on Netflix at some point.
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7:08AM on 08/03/2017
I'm not sure if you're a King fan or not, but I've found him to be a wonderful creator of *characters* and a wonderful *beginner* of stories, but in 100% of King's books that I've read (about 15) his story fizzles out to a shit-show/punt/awful ending. I've stopped going back to that well. Anyway, that's the Dark Tower's greatest weakness -- it begins with 3 incredibly interesting books with great, deep characters and by the 7th I was just left shaking my head in disappointment.
I'm not sure if you're a King fan or not, but I've found him to be a wonderful creator of *characters* and a wonderful *beginner* of stories, but in 100% of King's books that I've read (about 15) his story fizzles out to a shit-show/punt/awful ending. I've stopped going back to that well. Anyway, that's the Dark Tower's greatest weakness -- it begins with 3 incredibly interesting books with great, deep characters and by the 7th I was just left shaking my head in disappointment.
11:21PM on 08/02/2017
"Shocking."
"Shocking."
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