The Dark Tower
Director – Nikolaj Arcel
Cast – Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor
Rating – 1.5/5
Possibly the most hilarious bit of trivia about The Dark Tower is that Sony Pictures chose to premiere it at the MoMA – the landmark Museum of Modern Art that has housed works by artists like Picasso, van Gogh and Dali, and has provided a venue for provocateurs like Marina Abramović and Björk. It’s a perplexingly deliberate move to inject some form of legitimacy to what has to be one of the strangest summer movies in recent memory.
Identifying the problems with The Dark Tower isn’t a difficult task; we’ll get down to it presently. But after we’re done, there is a very good chance that you might actually be convinced that it’s some weird experimental movie that would feel out of place anywhere but the MoMA.
Before we begin, I must point out that I haven’t read Stephen King’s magnum opus, but have every intention to, despite this film. But regardless of whether or not you’ve read the books, you’ve probably come across the opening sentence of The Gunslinger, the first book in the series. It’s one of those bits of pop culture that has transcended its original fan-base and become something greater. So it would seem like a no-brainer to begin the film – in whichever manner – with some sort of nod towards that magnificent opening, a move which should hopefully unite novices and veteran King fans.
“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” But we never see either of them. We don’t read the words on a title card and nor do we hear them being said by a wizened old lady remembering the grandmothers’ tales from her youth.
Instead, we open with 11-year-old Jake Chambers, a fatherless boy who dreams of a far-off land at night. In these dreams, he sees a Man in Black who seeks to destroy the world by mounting an attack on a looming dark tower with an army of faceless men. Jake also sees a Gunslinger, who seeks to kill the Man in Black, as revenge for the murder of his father.
Ignored by his mother, patronized by his psychiatrist, and chased by the Man in Black’s men, Jake flees his home in New York and finds his way to an abandoned warehouse from his dreams. There, he discovers a portal that transports him to Mid-World, where the Man in Black is hightailing it across the desert, with the Gunslinger hot on his heels.
But in those 90 minutes, you will see a breathtakingly bizarre Matthew McConaughey performance. He plays the Man in Black like a Saturday Night Live parody of himself – all cheekbones and no charm, swarthy but without the swagger.
Poor Idris Elba, however, just can’t seem to catch a break – despite the curiously James Bond-like theme Junkie XL has composed for his character. McConaughey will simply swerve around it, as he has been doing with his previous three films, all signals that the once seemingly unstoppable McConnaissance might be ending, but for Elba, it’s another failed franchise starter. For him, the pain will be greater.