Thursday, August 31, 2017

Review of DARK TOWER: Slinging and Shining

August 30, 2017

American author Stephen King considered "The Dark Tower," his series of eight dark fantasy-Western books, as his masterpiece. The first book of this series "The Gunslinger" was published in 1982. The last installment "The Wind Through the Keyhole" was published only last 2012. The main story revolved around Roland Deschain, the last living Gunslingers in a line akin to that of King Arthur in their world, and his quest for the Dark Tower, the fabled center of their universe. 

This new movie is supposed to be a sequel to these books. At the helm is Nikolaj Arcel, the Danish director behind the beautiful "A Royal Affair" (2012) (MY REVIEW). This is Arcel's first Hollywood project. A film version of the books have long been planned by A-list directors such as J.J. Abrams and Ron Howard as early as 10 years ago, but never materialized till now. I had never read these books at all, so I have no idea what to expect. I will not be able to comment on how faithful this film version will be to the books. 

Jake Chambers was an 11-year old boy from New York City disturbed by very realistic nightmares about a post-apocalyptic world, a Man in Black, a Gunslinger and a very tall dark-colored tower. When a couple of staff of an asylum his parents contacted came to their apartment to pick him up for rehab, Jake recognized them as the monsters who wore fake human skin he sees in his vivid dreams. 

As he was escaping from his captors, Jake somehow gets sucked into a portal that brought him right into the parallel world see sees in his dreams. There he meets the Gunslinger Roland Deschain who tells him about the Man in Black Walter, who had been abducting children with psychic powers (called "shine") in attempts to destroy the Dark Tower that kept their world safe. Unknown to him, Jake had a "shine" so powerful that Walter wants to get him very badly. Roland, though, was not going to let that happen.

Right from the start, I felt that the casting of Tom Taylor as Jake Chambers was a misfire. He did not have the "it" factor that could make me root for him. Unlike the books, Jake Chambers was the central character of this film, not Roland Deschain. There was a big load on Taylor's young shoulders, but he felt lacking in charisma.

Another bit of miscasting is that of Matthew McConaughey as the Man in Black. I never really considered McConaughey as a good actor, until he surprised me in "Dallas Buyers Club" (2014) (MY REVIEW) and won his Best Actor Oscar for it. He had a stint of good projects after that, like "Interstellar" (MY REVIEW) and "Kubo" (MY REVIEW). However here, he seemed to have teetered off his pedestal again this time with his unconvincing and shallow portrayal of the main villain in this story. I thought the cheesy way he acted in the final battle scenes is Razzie material.

On the other hand, I thought the color-blind casting of Idris Elba as the Gunslinger Roland was genius. With his all-out passion and intensity, Elba brought into Roland a unique strength of character and sense of purpose. If not for Elba, this film would have been so much more unremarkable. Elba's very sincere portrayal made some details, like Deschain's ability to hit his target even when it is already out of sight look incredible, instead of absurd. I liked the cool ways he was reloading his revolver. I also liked his comical comments about modern things, like a cola drink or the hotdog.

Despite my complaints above about the acting (with the notable exception of Idris Elba), the film as a whole still managed to be quite engaging, especially if you knew nothing about the books. Despite a puzzling start, given the bizarre nature of Jake's nightmares, you will eventually get into the groove of it and be entertained. Yes, there are some very convenient contrivances to advance the story, but not too many. This felt like a spaghetti western of sorts with a futuristic twist which fortunately had Idris Elba there as the lone cowboy to save its day. 6/10. 


  1. Matthew M. is somewhat hit and miss for me. I liked him in some castings and not others. Glad you eventually get into the groove of this film, though, and sounds like overall it's a sort-of-ok storyline.

  2. I've heard about the book and knowing that it's Stephen King, the movie should be engaging. Will check this out.

  3. I've always loved Idris Elba, so it's no surprise that he saved this film on your perspective. I'm a fan of King's books even if they are on the dark side so I was looking forward to this movie.

  4. Thinking a little more on this review I can honestly say I will be checking this movie out. I have not read this book and although I feel in the past that movie makers have butchered Steven King books in film and TV (The Netflix series The Mist) I think I will check this movie out regardless. I mean it is Steven King after all.

  5. I love Idris Alba. Apart from him, I don't think anything in this storyline is attracting me! Psychologically affected child as the movie's central character, has to handled carefully!!!