With no attachment to the popular book series, The Dark Tower basically came and went for me with little to no consequence. It’s somehow a fantasy western starring Idris Elba as a sharp shooting Clint Eastwood cowboy versus Matthew McConaughey as the Devil dressed like the Matrix with no visual style or memorable moments to speak of afterwards. It plays like the pilot of a cable television series, which makes sense considering a television series is planned for afterwards. The Dark Tower hints at a large mythology worthy of exploring, featuring demons with sewed on faces ala Hannibal Lecter and psychics with high amounts of shine in their blood (mideclorians?). But the film moves far too fast to satisfyingly explain or dive into its potential, and at only 90 minutes long it’s very likely that either Sony hacked this one to bits in order to cut down on the weirder genre stuff or the film was undercooked and underserving the books from the beginning.
Elba is a very good choice for the Gunslinger and he owns it as a character, but the only thing he gets to chew on beyond cool posturing is a tragic backstory. The film comes to life for a couple surprising laugh out loud moments when he’s played fish out of water in New York City, but he’s playing it very dour and straight here. In contrast, McConaughey
hams it up like a supernatural 80’s Die Hard villain, alternating between cheesy threatening one-liners and sinister monologues. The two performances work on their own work fine, but don’t mesh well within the same film, and McConaughey is the outlier compared to the other actors in The Dark Tower.
With two big stars, the film oddly keeps them apart for a lot of the runtime, instead focusing on the relationship between Elba and young Tom Taylor’s Jake Chambers. Jake is supposed to be the entry point to this universe, but the movie really only is an introduction to the basics of this world, so that’s kind of a unnecessary point of view. Taylor’s a bit of a shaky actor, and the chemistry between him and Elba is rushed, which is disappointing considering its the main focus of the film.
The Dark Tower is mostly unmemorable, but then takes a turn towards plain bad for the climax. It feels like we’re building to something truly epic, but by the time it’s all finished, we’re left wondering “that’s it?” Before you can even process the disappointment, we’re pushed off towards the end credits. It’s a rushed, undercooked and very underwhelming result from what could’ve been a really fun adaptation in more ambitious hands. It’s like they made the film just to get the fans off their back, when I think the fans would’ve been willing to wait a little longer for a better film.