Many may hear the name Stephen King and think horror, which is fair since he has written some of the greatest thrillers and horrors in literature, but there is more to the prolific author. Many of his books venture outside of horror, especially what many would consider his magnum opus, The Dark Tower. The eight volume set of books that dates back to the early 80s has developed a cult following for King and his main character, Roland Deschain (Idris Alba). To develop this book series into a film seemed inevitable and has been a consideration since 2005, but like The Lord of the Rings it became a challenge to honour the characters, the author and the fan base with the level of care it deserved. With Danish director Nikolag Arcel (A Royal Affair) at the driver’s seat of this project, can The Dark Tower live up to the expectations of audiences?
It is hard to summarise all that the story contains, but this is for those who are unfamiliar with the gunslinger and the world of Mid-Earth. The tale begins in the New York home of Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) who is having dreams of a post-apocalyptic world of gunslingers, a man in black (Matthew McConaughey) and a dark tower. His family and teacher believe these apparitions are the result of Jake’s father dying a year earlier in a fire. While the young man sees it more as a calling for him to find a way to get to this world and to find the world that haunts his dreams. He finally comes to the realisations that he was right and is drawn into the world of Roland Deschain (The gunslinger) and Walter Padick (The Man in Black) and comes to the realisation that he contains gifts that can save his world and Mid-World. After coming in contact with and eventually befriending the gunslinger, they determine that they must travel back to New York to find the portal that will help them find The Man in Black and eliminate the threat to both of their worlds.
Even for those who are not fans of the book series, it is not hard to see that this book series is rich with amazing characters and potential plot lines. Idris Alba looks to be perfectly cast as the broken and brooding fighter from Mid-World. His anti-hero figure is counterbalanced with the ageless intensity of Matthew McConaughey’s portrayal of the evil Man in Black. The hope was these characters would be honoured and developed for the sake of a potential cinematic franchise and another epic battle of good versus evil. Unfortunately something must have happened within the production and this never comes to fruition which leaves The Dark Tower as an underwhelming and forgettable sci-fi yawner.
This may go down as a budget issue or a lack of vision from the multitude of screenwriters, but ultimately the responsibility for The Dark Tower travesty must fall on the shoulders of director Nikolag Arcel. To have eight volumes of material at his disposal and to fail to develop the characters shows that this was a poorly planned production and mismanaged script. For the film to come in at a mere 95 minutes shows that something went very wrong behind the camera and a misappropriation the original material. What was frustrating throughout the viewing experience is seeing that these characters had a story that was screaming to come out on screen, but each was left to be a mere charicature of themselves. This should have been the set up for an epic series and a potential for greatness, but it turned into an example of a missed opportunity or in the words of a gunslinger, the misfire that will be heard around the world.
REEL DIALOGUE: What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?
One thing that this film opens the door to the discussion on is the story of good verses evil, the power that connects all worlds and a saviour figure for a new generation.
“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3
At the heart of the film and book series is the connection between Roland Deschain and the child, Jake Chambers. Within the battle for the world, the heart of the message comes down to having the unencumbered faith like a child and a dependance on something outside of yourself.
Even though God does not get a mention in the storyline, it is hard to miss the direct connection between the overarching narrative of the Bible and the message of The Dark Tower. Stephen King may not credit any biblical influence on his writing, but the overt connection between the two is not a stretch.
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Roman 12:21
For those who are skeptical, the recommendation would be to pick up the Bible and The Dark Tower for yourself and compare and contrast.
WATCH THE TRAILER