A very smart man once told me never to sell my soul to the devil for less than 300 bucks. I have tried to live my life by that credo ever since. I judge my experiences on that motto. I left the theater with a mixed bag of emotions around The Dark Tower largely because of that life-changing conversation. In this case, because we are dealing with the movie industry and perhaps America’s greatest novelist, we could change some language from that earful of advice from so long ago to $300 million.
In earlier pre-release reviews on MovieNooz, I explained in perhaps too much detail and emotion what this movie franchise means to the folks who have read the epic eight-novel Dark Tower series. Frankly, I probably should’ve taken a step down from my three-story soapbox and focused on what the movie was actually bringing to the table. This movie does not follow, in any way, shape or form, the novels. Much to my chagrin, I enjoyed it immensely.
There’s really no point in discussing where this movie whiffed. My arguments would revolve around the half-assed attempt to pirate the best material to the great degradation of the macro. What’s the point? We knew it was destined to happen after the first clips of the movie began to surface. Ample ammunition exists, but I will leave that in the chamber.
I will mention, despite my previous paragraph, that the movie did miss on a few key areas. The Crimson King is written about (All Hail the Crimson King!) on walls dotted throughout the landscape. More attention should have been paid: a sinuous undercurrent of something bigger to come, perhaps along the lines of the White Walkers from Game of Thrones. Less attention, however, should have been paid to Jake’s (Tom Taylor) backstory. I found myself drifting during these poorly written and edited scenes. The novels dwelled exclusively on Jake’s disconnect from his world, and the importance of his moving along to others, a far superior motive for a dynamic Jake. The movie gives us a static, uninspiring character.
Also, the dialogue is atrocious. The action scenes were Pirates of the Caribbean meets Power Rangers. Sorry, I had to get that out of my system.
Now, let’s rub our hands together gleefully and discuss the finer points of this movie, if that suits you:
Mid-World came to us on the big screen. Not the exact Mid-World from the novels, but Mid-World all the same. In the first five minutes of the movie, I was transported. For around one-hundred minutes, I forgot what I knew about what I knew about, and just let the writers and directors tell their own story. It was perhaps that willing suspension of belief that allowed me to enjoy the movie so much. The desire of the makers of the Dark Tower to capture the actual story was minuscule, but they were able to capture the characters and the universe without a doubt. If anything, this movie helped me realize the depth and scope of the world and characters King created.
The lead character, Roland Deschain, last in the line of Eld, played by Idris Elba, simply nuclearized my expectations. He was stellar. He was able to tap into my idea of Roland seemingly without effort, despite flawed writing. Even with all the special effects and computer enhancements to create action and ambience, you can’t replicate your own imagination, but the talented Mr. Elba was adept at matching my internal picture of Roland Deschain.
Reciprocally, Matthew McConaughey, who plays Walter O’ Dim (The Man in Black, The Walkin’ Dude, Randall Flagg), overcomes extremely poor writing and creates a character all his own. Other variations of The Man in Black include a smiling, friendly fellow who is evil down to the soles of his worn cowboy boots. McConaughey removes the emotion from this character, and does a damn fine job about it, too. The focus is on becoming a stony, uncaring plague on other life forms, and I applaud his efforts and ability. Even as such, he still retains a very personable character. I daresay I rooted for him a few times…
A character not mentioned in the credits are Roland’s sandalwood-gripped revolvers, handed down to each of the line of Eld. The booming noise that accompanies each trigger pull was jarring and wonderful. This much attention to a very tiny, but vital, detail was significant and meaningful.
When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I was sold lock stock and barrel on director Nikolaj Arcel’s vision of the world Stephen King created. I can understand the poor reviews swirling around The Dark Tower but I can also tell you with great certainty you will not regret watching it. I sincerely hope Sony Pictures ponies up for a sequel, because the lines of intrigue are all there, just perhaps not the way Stephen King originally intended.
Now, back to selling our souls for $300 million. I have grave concerns this movie sold the soul of The Dark Tower series for an opening weekend of $19 million. The complications around producing this franchise were noted extensively by Hollywood press. The poor reviews, coupled with poor attendance (there were twelve other people in the theater I went to only four days after opening) bodes dire for the continuation. I profoundly hope this is not the case, but early signs are pointing towards failure. First come smiles, then lies. Last is gunfire.