Movies: The Dark Tower

Starring: Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor
Directed By: Nikolaj Arcel
Written By: Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, Anders Thomas Jensen, Nikolaj Arcel (screenplay), based on the books by Stephen King
Sony Pictures, 2017
PG-13; 95 minutes
3 stars (out of 5)


There's a common trope in YA novels these days—fantasy YA novels, that is—where the main character has a dream, or several dreams, that gives him or her important information. That's where The Dark Tower starts, too. Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) has been seeing a psychiatrist because he keeps having nightmares about a man in black and a, er, dark tower. Everyone assumes the dreams are trauma from having lost his father in a fire a year before, but of course like every good YA story the child is right all along and is the true hero.

While watching The Dark Tower, I was reminded of things like the Percy Jackson books. This really is a young adult story, and I wonder if that is why the critics have taken it so badly. They expected (or wanted) something else?

I read The Gunslinger a very, very long time ago and have little memory of it. Never read any of the other books in the series. So I was able to approach the movie as a mostly clean slate and with little to no expectations. My only thought was: Idris Elba is the coolest guy who ever guy'd, and I like Matty McConaughey, so why not?

It's a short movie, and somewhat perfunctory, by which I mean the parts that should have had the most emotional impact failed to fully land their punches. And the "funny" parts could have been played for more laughs. But for what it is, The Dark Tower is . . . ::shrug:: It's fine. McConaughey hams it up a bit, and his jacket has weird sleeves that I found distracting, but eh. Whatever.

My 11-year-old son, though? He came out of the movie really liking it. Which only reinforced my feeling that it was definitely more a YA story than an adult one.

Lots of fun easter eggs for King fans (and I'm sure I didn't even catch all of them). I can at least say I liked it more than Valerian; I did not at any point get bored as Tower moves along at a brisk clip. Part of me wants to say Elba is wasted here, but at the same time he's so perfect as Roland that, even if he is wasted, we benefit from it. And so does the film.

In short, not as bad as everyone seems to think. Or else I just think differently. Wouldn't be the first time.

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