Film Review: The Dark Tower


I liked it.

I have to be honest, I wasn't expecting to. The reviews and word of mouth for the film adaption of Stephen King's The Dark Tower were not just bad, they were awful. But King' Dark Tower series is one of my favorite reads of all time - I was going to see it for myself.

I was feeling rather under the weather on Saturday, still getting over some nasty head congestion, but with such awful reviews I was a bit concerned the film would be in for a very brief engagement. My 12-year old, Jasmine, was very interested in seeing it. She's just about finished reading The Gunslinger. Of my two daughters, she's the geeky one, the one into comics, the one who has already read some Jack Williamson. 

Much to my surprise, I really liked it. Idris Elba made for a great Roland and Matthew McConaughey was a villainous delight as Walter/The Man in Black. It was critical to get someone good for Jake Chambers and Tom Taylor did a fine job.

These were not quite the characters we know from the novels and the storyline is not quite the same. It felt like another level of the Tower. Not one far from the one encountered in the novels, but definitely different. This Roland is one who has given up on saving the Tower, much less on climbing it. He wants revenge on Walter before darkness falls. The film took elements from all of the books. Like in the final book, telepaths are being used to help bring the Tower down - here they are children, gifted with "the shining" (yes, a reference to the King novel). Like in the novel The Wastelands, it features a Jake dreaming of Roland and the Tower - and questioning his own sanity. Everyone else thinks he's crazy. 

The running time of little more than 90 minutes greatly surprised me. However, it actually didn't seem rushed, something I was certain it would. It definitely felt tight. I know there's the hope of having a television series as well, but it didn't feel like a film whose purpose was to launch other projects (by way of comparison, Amazing Spider-Man 2 seemed to dedicate far too much time to possible sequels). The film told its story. Jake shines brightly. Walter wants him as the final telepath to bring the tower down. And Roland must find something to live for beyond vengeance.

I also get why people might not care for it. It definitely wasn't a retelling of the novels. Truthfully, my own preference would have been to see the series adapted slowly, building up. I'd love to see a straight-up adaptation of The Gunslinger, one of my favorite novels. So while it's not the way I would have gone, it is a way I enjoyed. For what it's worth, Jasmine, who is making her first trip through the novels, enjoyed it as well. She debating whether to read The Drawing of the Three next or go for something a little different. But she definitely wants to read all of the novels. It's neat to share with her my 1980s copy of The Drawing of the Three...

For what it's worth, there were gazillions of Easter eggs for readers of the novels - the Dixie Pig, the Tet Corporation, the names of some minor characters, many plot elements, etc. While the creators didn't go for a straight adaptation, they definitely knew the source material. 

I do not aim with my hand; he who aims with his hand has forgotten the face of his father. 
I aim with my eye. 
I do not shoot with my hand; he who shoots with his hand has forgotten the face of his father. 
I shoot with my mind. 
I do not kill with my gun; he who kills with his gun has forgotten the face of his father.
I kill with my heart.

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