|Admittedly, that's a very cool poster|
Call it The Grey Castle, call it The Dark Bomb, call it Ramblin' Joe and his Magnificent Bumbershoot, if you want, but don't call it The Dark Tower. Because it ain't that.
I tried. I tried so hard to see this as just a movie. To evaluate it as only a movie. But there's so little here as a movie that I could not help but see this the only way that mattered to me; as an adaptation of a series that I love.
As a movie, this is one big nothingburger. No substance. No style of its own. It looked like a million other sci-fi dramas of recent years. If I wasn't familiar with The Dark Tower, you could probably convince me that this was another chapter in some teen-centric sci-fi series like The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner or Divergent. Only it's not even as engaging as those three, and I don't really find the others engaging at all.
As an adaptation, this fails on all fronts. I mean, we're just a few steps up from The Lawnmower Man. My first words to my wife when I finished watching was "Well, that was an abomination." Years we've been waiting for this. So many false starts, so many promises...and this is what we got. This whole thing felt like Fant4stic, a rush job meant solely to hold on to the rights.
As I'm sure you all remember, I was not happy that Roland was being played by Idris Elba, but not
because I don't like Idris Elba. I think Idris Elba is an amazing actor, and one of those guys who's always watchable no matter how bad the film is they're acting in. That's probably why they hired him. In fact, that's absolutely why they hired him. And it's only thanks to him that I wasn't bored to the point of playing with my phone whenever his scenes were being shown. Because holy Gan, they were so generic.
So, while I think Elba did a fine job (that was never in question), the fact remains that this was not Roland. And I don't mean Roland is white, therefore Elba didn't look like Roland. I mean this wasn't Roland. This Roland isn't seeking the Tower. He hardly has any interest in it. He just wants to stop Walter, in the most run-of-the-mill good-guy-vs-bad-guy plot I've ever seen. This Roland has no quest. He has no purpose. And really, this isn't even his movie.
It's Jake's. Jake is the central focus of the movie. We see pretty much all of it through his eyes. And that wouldn't be so bad, I guess, if this was actually Jake and not some random kid. This Jake is the son of a firefighter killed on 9/11 (not a terrible idea in and of itself, really) and he's being hunted by Walter's agents (the Taheen) because he has an incredible psychic power that makes him the ultimate Breaker. I'm not describing what all this means. It's in the books and though I know there are some readers here who haven't read The Dark Tower series, it would take too long and I'm not interested in rehashing it all. Long story short is that this Jake has pretty much fuck all to do with Jake of the books, who has no psychic abilities and who didn't find All-World thanks to a machine but in a permanent way that means he can't go back home (which in this film is all he wants to do).
This all plays out in the most boring of ways, again saved only by the fact that Elba has that magnetism that makes you want to watch him. Tom Taylor, who plays Jake, doesn't, which doesn't mean I think he's a bad actor, just that he's not the kind of riveting actor that makes boring scenes seem less so. And unfortunately we spend most of our time following him, with Roland not even appearing for probably 20 minutes.
There's all these little touches that show the creators of this film (at least some of them) have read the books, but that just makes me more angry. The more little Easter eggs, like Roland muttering "the world has moved on", a very brief shot of Charlie the Choo-Choo, references to Roland's guns being forged from the sword of Arthur Eld, Walter using Black Thirteen to communicate with Roland, and even psychic powers being called "shine" (more a reference to King's works in general, and more specifically, The Shining, but I'll take it), the more I realized that whoever included these was an actual fan, and yet still this is the movie they produced. A movie designed to please everyone, that pleases no one.
If there was an unexpected bright spot to this, it's that I was actually a bit impressed with Matthew McConaughey as Walter Padick, the Man in Black. Walter is Stephen King's most oft-used villain, the same being (if not the same persona) as Randall Flagg of The Stand, Flagg of The Eyes of the Dragon and probably some others besides. The Man in Black of the books starts off feeling more like an evil wizard from a faerie story, but Roland ultimately meets him in many guises, including ones that are more like Flagg from The Stand. McConaughey is kinda like Flagg but in a dark suit, and he suppresses his southern accent to the point where it's not quite gone but has him speaking in an evil purr that's just right. I almost do want to see him take on Flagg in a Stand adaptation, but I'm not re-working my SKCU to fit him in. It just means I was more impressed than I thought I'd be at his performance. I actually bought him as a villain, and he does appear to have more layers than I initially thought of him.
But ultimately, this is one big fail of a movie. It fails to engage (critics were merciless) and it fails as an adaptation. It made some money (not even its budget plus half, making it nowhere near the massive hit it needed to be), but audiences ultimately gave it a low score themselves, and I'm all but positive that the planned sequel won't happen.
That doesn't mean the people behind it have taken the hint. I hear they're still going ahead with a planned TV series that will focus on Roland as a younger man. Initially it was meant to be a prequel to the movie, but now King himself is saying it will not be related at all, and will be "more faithful". Frankly, I don't trust these producers. I hope the TV series that is currently in the works fails to be picked up, and that a series actually based on the damn books (what is so hard about that?) can be made.
Because, really, this series needs to be a TV series. I'm not sure why I ever thought it could work as a movie.
|Jackie Earle Haley as Sayre|
Honestly, it's like the creators just read the first book (or skimmed it) and the last three. Most of the obvious references are from the last three books, when the series kinda went off the rails and introduced so much that wasn't part of the series at all up until then. As much as I liked seeing the House Demon, the stuff that made me come to love this series was nowhere. Roland's backstory doesn't even get a brief mention (Dennis Haysbert cameos as his father, but his one scene is far from relevatory), nor is Roland told about the Three that he will Draw, and in fact the end of the film seems to suggest that the story is wrapped up. Roland never even sees the Tower. In fact, the Tower is in all of three or four shots. And they even get the Tower wrong; it looks okay, but it's apparently here to "protect us from darkness". No. Just no. The Tower is here as the lynchpin of reality. What kind of nebulous bullshit is this mission to "protect us from darkness"? This is the kind of lack of respect I'm talking about.
So, yeah, the slate needs to be wiped clean and re-done, and by different people. I will continue to make my Dark Tower casting posts as if this movie never happened, and as if this new TV series that's in the works gets scrapped. I don't mind exploring Roland's past in the TV series, I mean, hell, it's going to be 100% necessary. But I want the story from the books filmed, or at least as close to it as we can. I want to see the Drawing, and have Eddie and Susannah show up. I want Shardik. I want Lud. I want Blaine the Pain. Hell, I even want Father Callahan to show up. Will there be a ton of changes, even in my version? Yes, of course there will be. But the respect for the source material will also be there, and until Hollywood can get someone working on this who brings that respect, Howard, Goldsman and company need to just quit while they're waaaaay behind.