The Dark Tower
Stephen King is considered by most to be one of the undisputed masters of horror. He is not only a near-constant presence in the film but still retains his provenance in his original venue as a bestselling author. With such an impressive oeuvre not every one of his works that makes the transition to the movies is going to be a hit. Occasionally there will be some bombs. With such iconic literary and cinematic successes as ‘Carrie,' ‘Misery ‘and most recently ‘It,' his reputation remains intact despite an unqualified failure. An example of a certified flop film is ‘Dark Tower.' Within the context of the novels, the plot and characters were part of a series spanning some eight books. For anyone that was read the novels sitting down to watch the movie will immediately notice that an incredible amount of background, a defining information has been completely omitted. This produces in the audience feeling akin to walking in during a show already in progress. There are critical connections between primary characters left unresolved and an underlying set of circumstances crucial to driving the plot and character development that is crucial to understand yet much of the mythos is left to be blindly filled in by the audience. Compounding this estrangement are little references to the other King-based films and miniseries. For example, the young protagonists are said to possess an exceptionally strong psychic ability referred to has his ‘Shine,' an overt reference the key ability in the ‘Shunning.' There are also numerous similarities between the main antagonist and the ultimate Big Bad seen in sever other works by Mr. King. In his post-apocalyptic masterpiece, ‘The Stand.' The bona fides of the screenwriters and director will be elaborated on in due time but at this point suffice it to say their resumes would indicate the far greater realization of potential than was achieved.
In New York City eleven-year-old Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) has been experiencing strand, dark dreams bordering on nightmares. Taken together the dreams and visions have built a desolate world in the boy’s mind. Several images are constant, depicting the same places populated by the same people. The usually include a gunslinger and a man un black exuding a sense of unadulterated evil. At the center of these dreams, there is a =n immensely tall black tower that is constantly under attack. Back in the real world, the city has been experiencing a series of earthquakes of increasing intensity. Jake’s mother. Laurie (Katheryn Winnick) is very concerned about her son’s escalating unusual behavior and hi obsessions including people disguised by earing fake skin. Initially, Laurie was concerned when a couple of representative of a psychiatric facility notified by his school. They assure the worried mother that they can help her son relinquish his delusions.
Jake’s reaction is completely different. Noticing signs of loose skin indicating a disguise. Jake readily escapes his captors by jumping out of his window to the fire escape.Immediately drawn to an apparently abandoned building, he stumbles upon a strange, high tech device. After entering Jake is transported to a desolate place, Mid-World. His transit and the failure of the operatives notifies the Man in Black, Walter Padick (Matthew McConaughey). It is revealed that he is the immortal embodiment of evil determined to destroy the Dark Tower that appears in Jake’s dreams. If this was accomplished than all the various worlds or universes will crumble. Throughout time his major source of opposition has been a group dedicated to protecting the Tower, the Gunslingers. Once a formidable force for good, there is now only one surviving member of their ranks, Roland Deschain (Idris Elba). Disillusioned and alone his only connection to his past is the Gunslinger’s code, "I do not aim with my hand. He who aims with his hand has forgotten the face of his father. I am with my eye. I do not shoot with my hand. He who shoots with his hand has forgotten the face of his father. I shoot with my mind. I do not kill with my gun. He who kills with his gun has forgotten the face of his father. I kill with my heart. In an extremely predictable plot device, Jack and Roland meet and slowly begin to bond. Once Roland realizes that Jake not only possesses ‘The Shone in extraordinary measure, it turns out he is the prophesied, ' the Pure Shine.' Walter has been draining the Shine from children, fashioning it into a weapon capable of attacking and eventually destroying the Tower. Jake and Roland make their way through another portal bring them to Earth. In need of ammunition Roland inquires if there are guns on earth, Jake assures him that he will love the planet. A quick side trip to a sporting goods store provides the Gunslinger more than sufficient firepower to take on the ultimate source of evil.
A major source of consternation surrounding this ill-fated production is the inability to associate with a specific genre and develop the narrative within that framework. This is a result of the stripping out of thousands of pages of backstory and exposition. There are elements of genres, tropes and archetypes lifted from a plethora of sources, some mutually exclusive. The pair of survivors trekking through a desert until they come upon an isolated town populated by a resistor of the oppressive regime. Another way of considering the story is a buddy movie featuring a boy on the cusp of manhood finding a true and noble father figure. Then there is the ultimate fight between the bastion of good and the epitome of evil. Underlying it all is a foundation wavering between fantasy and science fiction. When such confusion is predicated on the flimsy remnants of the intricately crafted saga the results are doomed to be a morass. The cast is far better than the production warrants. Is a filmmaker is searching for a performer capable of playing a villain that relishes torturing his advisories and tormenting his staff, Matthew McConaughey is among the best possible choices. Portraying the troubled gunslinger, baring the responsibility of being the last of his kind, few actors besides Idris Elba could bring such a sense of gravitas to the role. Two incredible journeyman actors are entirely wasted in minuscule parts, unworthy of their considerable abilities. Jackie Earle Haley as one of Walter’s lackeys and the stat of the History’s Channel long-running hit, Vikings, Katheryn Winnick, are used as little more than cameos.
Usually, at this point, I would do my best to highlight the unachieved potential wasted by the movie. Unfortunately, there is such discontinuity deeply ingrained in the production that it would require rebuilding it from scratch. There are plans for a television series soon. Hopefully the increased amount of amount of content and the necessary time to permit the story to unfold properly, this story will receive its due attention. This is typical for many of the works by Mr. King. "The Stand’ required more than could fit in a film but was very effective as a miniseries. The cinematic reboot of ‘It,' previous also a miniseries, has been split into two feature-length films. A television series might be just what this story needs to satisfy the fans.