Having never read Stephen King’s fantasy series, The Dark Tower, I went into the cinemas with very few expectations, but this Hollywood adaptation/franchise wannabe failed to meet even those.
Expectation one: don’t start a movie with exposition. The lights go dark and two lines appear on the screen that read something like “The Dark Tower sits in the centre of the universe … It is said that a mind of a child can bring it down”. Stop right there. There is an iconic adage that does the rounds far too much in creative circles, but nevertheless: show don’t tell.
If you are building a fantasy world for me—the viewer who is completely detached from the plot—please don’t give me a summary before I have even glimpsed a character or a setting.
Expectation two: if you enlist A-lister celebrities like Matthew McConaughey or Idris Elba to play the roles of your main protagonist and antagonist, make the most of it.
McConaughey assumes the wooden persona of Walter O’Dim or the Man in Black, who has about as much emotional range and depth as Joan Rivers’ face. Even the righteous intensity Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger—played by Elba—could not save the day.
One of the better performances was perhaps that of Jake Chambers’ hot mum, played by Katheryn Winnick, better known for her role as Lagertha in Vikings. But when you’re looking for enthralling performances and you’re ultimately drawn to a secondary character, there is something wrong.
It is not the fault of McConaughey nor Elba or an indication of their poor acting skills, but the folly of an overloaded plot with too much to explain with not enough time. Instead of developing emotional attachments to characters, I spent half the movie deciphering what the fuck was going on within this unfamiliar fantasy world. This brings me to my next expectation.
Expectation three: explain shit. Who are those rat people wearing fake skin? Is Walter a witch, demon, or just a super-powered douche? Why does the stream of kids’ consciousness fired at the tower look like a urine stream? When you try to condense a story with eight volumes and several exotic locations and dimensions into one 95 minute cluster-fuck, things get confusing. This movies finds itself in the awkward position of being too complex for uninformed viewers to understand and too ephemeral for diehard fans to appreciate.
But it looks like Hollywood isn’t done with this emaciated cash cow, with mumblings of a sequel already abound. I have one thing to say to that: dear god, please no.