‘Ka is a wheel, its one purpose to turn’, is what Stephen King allowed us to believe throughout his epic fantastical book series, The Dark Tower. This has similar implications to our very own ‘circle of life’; yet after assessing Hollywood’s highly disappointing adaptation, it’s clear that the wheel ran off-course a long time ago.
With fleeting references to the broader themes, characters and scope of The Dark Tower novels, director Nikolaj Arcel never manages to lay down a potent foundation for the screen. If you’ve marvelled within the pages of King’s macabre, bittersweet creation; following Roland the Gunslinger and his beloved ka-tet, then you may too raise an eyebrow at the 90-minute runtime of this adaptation. With eight books in total, all set within a baron and mystical landscape (Mid-World), King’s material has already been tried and tested by far superior filmmakers. The impressive roster of directing talent to come and go includes Ron Howard and J.J. Abrams, in addition to would-be acting leads Javier Bardem and Viggo Mortensen.
This adaptation concerns Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), a school kid who has nightmares featuring an evil warlock, beasts hiding in human form and a roguish gunman. When Jake relays these disturbing dreams back to his mum and step-dad, they have him see a psychiatrist. Now this is understandable, their son’s wild ramblings become a prominent feature in their lives - but what if such monstrous villains were real?
With the discovery of a magic portal in New York City, Jake enters the alternate reality of Mid-World - where his nightmarish visions are in fact living, breathing entities. Here he meets Roland Deschain, a legendary gunslinger, portrayed by Idris Elba. This was initially a shrewd casting choice but the British actor isn’t fed much of a script here, cursed with cheesy (not the mild kind) dialogue. Readers of King’s western inspired fantasy/horror mash up may suffer heartbreak in this instance. Blasting his way off the page, Roland is a melancholic anti-hero whose caring nature acts as a counterpoint to his true calling – the world’s deadliest sharpshooter. Arcel’s film may find moments of authentic torture in Elba’s performance, but overall he becomes just another mundane man of action.
Walter o’Dim (The Man in Black), the series’ antagonistic wizard, is brought to scorchingly dull life by Matthew McConaughey. He is Roland’s sworn enemy and plans to disrupt the balance of reality by toppling the dark tower itself. What waits beyond this notion is a legion of dark forces that could change the face of the universe. Jake and Roland spend their time together attempting to nullify Walter’s vicious ploys, only for blood and death to accompany them.
Unfortunately, this adaptation fails on almost every conceivable level, whether it’s from a fan’s perspective or a newbie’s. The characterisation is string-like thin, the majority of the acting is wooden and in some circumstances, laughably theatrical. In this day and age of technological advancement and mind-bending cinematic possibilities, even The Dark Tower’s special effects are instantly forgettable. You’ve been warned.
THE DARK TOWER / CERT: 12A / DIRECTOR: NIKOLAJ ARCEL / SCREENPLAY: AKIVA GOLDSMAN, JEFF PINKNER, NIKOLAJ ARCEL / STARRING: IDRIS ELBA, MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY, TOM TAYLOR / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Expected rating: 7/10