The misfire that will be heard around the world?

The misfire that will be heard around the world?

Review: The Dark Tower

(M) Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor, Abbey Lee

Many may hear the name Stephen King and think horror, which is fair since he has written some of the greatest thrillers and horrors in literature, but there is more to the prolific author. Many of his books venture outside of horror, especially what many would consider his magnum opus, The Dark Tower. The eight-volume set of books that dates back to the early 80s has developed a cult following for King and his main character, Roland Deschain (Idris Elba). To develop this book series into a film was inevitable but like The Lord of the Rings, it became a challenge to honour the characters, the author and the fan base with the level of care it deserved. Unfortunately, something must have happened within the production and this never comes to fruition, which leaves The Dark Tower as an underwhelming and forgettable sci-fi yawner.

The tale begins in the New York home of Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) who is having dreams of a post-apocalyptic world of gunslingers, a man in black (Matthew McConaughey) and a dark tower. His family and teacher believe these apparitions are the result of Jake’s father dying a year earlier in a fire. However, the young man sees it more as a calling for him to find a way to this world that haunts his dreams. His intuition rings true when he is drawn into the world of Roland Deschain (The gunslinger) and Walter Padick (The Man in Black). Here he finds out that he contains gifts that can save his world and Mid-World. After befriending the gunslinger, the duo must travel back to New York and find the portal that will lead them to The Man in Black and eliminate the threat to both of their worlds.

With a plot like that, it is not hard to see that this book series is rich with amazing characters and potential plot lines. Idris Elba looks to be perfectly cast as the broken and brooding fighter from Mid-World. His anti-hero figure is counterbalanced with the ageless intensity of Matthew McConaughey’s portrayal of the evil Man in Black. The hope that these characters would be honoured and developed for the sake of a potential cinematic franchise ultimately fell short.

This may go down as a budget issue or a lack of vision from the multitude of screenwriters, but ultimately the responsibility for The Dark Tower travesty must fall on the shoulders of director Nikolag Arcel (A Royal Affair). He had eight volumes of material at his disposal and failed to develop the characters, which shows that this was a poorly planned production, and a mismanaged script. For the film to come in at a mere 95 minutes shows that something went very wrong behind the camera and a misappropriation the original material.  It was frustrating throughout the viewing experience to see that these characters had a story that was screaming to come out on screen, but each was left to be a mere caricature of themselves. This should have been the set up for an epic series and a potential for greatness. Yet, it turned into an example of a missed opportunity or in the words of a gunslinger, the misfire that will be heard around the world.

Looking Deeper

This film opens the door for discussion on the story of good versus evil, the power that connects all worlds and a saviour figure for a new generation.

“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3

At the heart of the film and the book series is the connection between Roland Deschain and the child, Jake Chambers. Within the battle for the world, the heart of the message comes down to having the unencumbered faith like a child and a dependence on something outside of yourself.

Even though God does not get a mention in the storyline, it is hard to miss the direct connection between the overarching narrative of the Bible and the message of The Dark Tower. Stephen King may not credit any biblical influence on his writing, but the overt connection between the two is not a stretch.

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Roman 12:21

For those who are sceptical, the recommendation would be to pick up the Bible and The Dark Tower for yourself and compare.


Russell Matthews works for City Bible Forum Sydney and is a film blogger


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