Review: Stephen King's The Dark Tower | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Review: Stephen King’s The Dark Tower

Film Editor John James offers a controversial view on Stephen King adaptation: The Dark Tower

Firstly, don't believe the neagativity. I know not many people are excited for this film (I wasn’t) so the savaging won’t really affect the films box office as much as say Suicide Squad’s reception did. Still it’s unfair. As with all book adaptations The Dark Tower has fell victim to horrendous spiting from literary and film critics. Its crime? Being a competent adventure film.

Don’t believe the negativity

See the thing is, fans of the books were always going to find it harder to accept it’s good because it's incapable of weighing up to their own idea of how the world should look. In my opinion, this is an unworthy basis for criticism, it too easily slides into attacking people purely because they've dared to have had a go at adapting something that you like.

Aside from some pretty laboured clichés relatively early on ("Jake’s a well-mannered, mistreated and misunderstood orphan") the film does very well in establishing its relatively complex premise. There’s a dark tower at the centre of an indeterminate number of universes that is being attacked by Matthew McConaughey because, basically he's dick. Defending this tower for millennia have been the gunslingers, but only Idris Elba is left now and he’s (unsurprisingly) lost his way. Can the love and trust of a child bring about the change in him that saves the tower and the day? That’s the plot, not as complex as the trailer made out and far more entertaining as well.

As mentioned McConaughey is a lot of fun as the smarmy 'Man in Black'

As mentioned McConaughey is a lot of fun as the smarmy ‘Man in Black’ who literally strolls through the film like a 12a Patrick Bateman maiming, burning and choking everyone he comes across. His motiveless malignity is a brave call from director Nikolaj Arcel, who resists the urge to give the villain any back story or aim that films aimed at children normally have, cloaking McConaughey’s abominations in mystery. Idris Elba is also good, though I’ve seen numerous reviews saying this film ‘wastes his talent’. If somebody can please identify the range Idris Elba has an actor and point me in the direction I’d appreciate it, because all I’ve ever seen is him play the gruff, troubled but stoic outsider and he’s pretty good at that here…

The film's set pieces are sparse but effective, Elba not really getting the chance to shoot up a green screen until late on before killing about a hundred people with two guns. In keeping with the mysterious universe of films, where characters do abnormal things that defy both the laws of physics and narrative, I didn’t mind. It’s only 95 minutes, why stress. That’s the real strength of the film: that you forgive it. It’s a brave move for a studio to roll out a new fantasy franchise at the best of times but one as vague as this deserves extra credit.  If you really can’t forgive a summer film about interdimensional gunslingers protecting a tower, there’s not that much point you going to the cinema outside of January.

VERDICT: You can do a lot worse than seeing this. An enjoyable way to pass an hour and a half with strong visuals, performances and a host of golden McConaughey lines: ‘You really think you can stop me, Gunslinger?’

Rating: 7/10


Tinged with tragedy, touched by greatness.


4th September 2017 at 11:00 am

Last Updated

16th September 2017 at 12:21 pm

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