With millions of copies sold and an extremely dedicated fan base, The Dark Tower was highly anticipated, to say the least. The film would be based loosely on the series and would have high implications about what could possibly follow. Since the subject matter is so dense, it is possible that the screenwriters found themselves overwhelmed, or even over the heads in the ability to translate it to film. This is not necessarily a new problem. Stephen King’s work has always been hard for filmmakers to translate well enough that the film could stand on its own two feet. The exceptions being The Green Mile, Shawshank Redemption, The Shining, Stand by Me, IT (2017), and arguably Carrie (1976). That list may seem like, for the most part, his work has been met with success; however, when you consider the list of not so successful films that list is nearly two times as long. So what does that mean for adapting Stephen King to film? Hard to say really. Good storytelling is good storytelling. When screenwriters try too hard to adapt a film to screen and ultimately change the subject matter, it is hard to understand why that would work. After all, the reason the films are being made is the mass success the books received.
Our story follows a young boy by the name of Jake, who has been having nightmares of another world where a Man in Black is hellbent on destroying order at any cost. The more Jake has these dreams, the more they start to bleed out into his daily behavior. All the adults around him are convinced this is just reflective of the loss of his father (the metaphor definitely becomes apparent later on) and he is simply a troubled teen with some severe emotional distress. Things come to a breaking point when his mother tries to send him away to a camp for troubled adolescents. When the staff from the camp comes to pick him up he realizes they are involved with the Man in Black. He tries to explain this to his mom, and naturally, she has a hard time believing him. Jake sees no other option other than to flee. Searching for a way to the other world and maybe some answers he finds himself at a portal to another world he finds that everything he dreamed was true after all. In this new world he meets Roland, the Gunslinger (an elite group of people sworn to protect the Tower at all costs) who agrees to help him find and stop the Man in Black whose name is apparently Walter. The question becomes will Jake and Roland have what it takes to stop the Man in Black before it’s too late?
The largest problem for this film boils down to one word and one huge problem: Pacing. Most of the story we get takes place in the front half of the film surrounding Jake and what he is going through. This is only a problem because it is by far the least interesting part of the film. The second issue comes when you start to dissect the film. When Jake and Roland are traveling to reach a couple their destinations, and by this point, we assume Roland has been traveling for years trying to confront and stop the Man in Black, however, Jake and Roland seem to get to where they want to go in a matter of like 48 hours. All of which seems improbable and like a huge slap in the face to the original story. I myself never read the books. However, I have been told that their journey is summed up way too quickly. Where we really run into issues, is when you move a film forward with poor pacing the audience has a hard time identifying with and ultimately caring for the characters. So for example, if a character dies, or is about to die, the audience lacks the proper empathy for the characters for this to really hit home No matter how well the actor/actress performs.
The Film 2/5
There are some absolutely incredible moments that take place during this film. Certain effects and moments translate really well on the home screen and then, of course, there are some problems that seem more amplified. The whole wardrobe for Roland (Idris Elba) is wonderful. He comes off menacing and like a total badass. Then there is Walter (The Man in Black) the outfit seems fine but I could not stop staring at the hair, it is just a weird look for McConaughey and overall distracting. The special effects as far as they Gunfighting is awesome, unfortunately, a lot of the coolest moments were shown during the trailer and they seem lackluster when you watch them again. The other thing is that they are few and far between. The whole film you really are just waiting to see cool gun tricks and scenes and there really is only three sequences worth writing home about. The picture quality for home is wonderful. Blu-ray only seemed to enhance the overall look of the film and made for some beautiful sequences as a result.
Picture Quality 5/5
Tom Holkenborg is credited as the composer for The Dark Tower. No stranger to stories larger than life he has worked on films like Deadpool, Mad Max: Fury Road, Divergent, and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. His score does what it can to add drama and substance to what ended up as a rather quick story. I am thinking of particular moments that required some extra emotional draw that maybe the story failed to add enough substance. The score did seem to help that buy-in along. We do also get a couple of moments with some unique uses for sound e.g. moments when Roland is really focusing on a shot. The film was edited rather well for home use, and as someone who usually keeps subtitles on for convenience and forgot to turn them on I can report that the levels were quite even.
Audio Quality 5/5
I messed up. I waited too long and had my dates mixed up so I did not end up with a sleeve. I purchased the standard version of the film with just Blu-Ray and Digital HD copy included and honestly there is not much to brag about. It all just seems rather run of the mill and unimpressive. There is also one stand out thing (that drives my wife crazy) where the names of the actors do not correspond where they are positioned on the cover image. Personally, I am more bothered with the cliched image of the two character standing back to back with an image cropped in the background. I will say I rather liked the way the 4k special edition looked and as a whole, it looked like a better buy. One thing I rather did like about this release is the image included on the disc itself which is a simple white background with the silhouette of a gun. This is a rather minimalistic approach and comes across much better than the image on the forefront of the case. The only issue I have with the image on the disc, it’s not Roland’s Gun and obviously so.
The Packaging 3/5
It is never a good sign when I am ultimately not that interested in seeing the extras for a film. The reason here is, I know the actors and the whole ensemble is going to blatantly ignore the issues with the film and speak to it like it is their greatest work which just comes off phony. However, if this film is your jam, and you loved the way it was told you will be pleasantly surprised to find quite a few item to be included in the edition of the film. The Special Features are as follows:
- Blooper Reel
- Deleted Scenes
- Last Time Around
- We get to hear from Stephen King and the writers for the film on how the adaptation came to be.
- Stephen King Inspirations
- We get to hear from King once more(some repeat) and the people involved on what it is like to be immersed in this world
- The Gunslinger in Action
- We get to see some of what went into bringing the action sequences to life
- The Man in Black
- We get to see McConaughey’s process for bringing this larger than life character to the screen.
- The World Has Moved on
- This short takes us through location scouting and how they created the world of Midworld
- A Look Through the Keyhole (Short Vignettes narrated by McConaughey and Elba)
- And the Gunslinger Followed
- Worlds Other Than These
- The Gunslinger’s Creed
Special Features 4/5
This film feels like something that I would totally be into when I was a kid. It almost feels catered to that audience which is odd because I am almost certain that is not the way the novels reflected. What I ultimately mean by that is that it moves fast and leaves much to be imagined by the viewer. So much of the story is missing, whether it is the history of the characters or the world they live in as an adult all I have is questions where I am sure if I was still a kid I would have made up my own answers to those same questions by now. It is reminiscent of The Neverending Story, or The Labyrinth, where a child finds themselves in a situation that is extraordinary and without nearly any explanation they are on their way to defeat the big baddie. This just doesn’t work anymore, at least not for me. I want more, I want more running time, more action, more explanation and I get none of those things from this film. I have what seems to be a misguided attempt at bringing to life a very beloved book series, poorly. You can buy this release HERE.