I refuse to spend more time writing this review than I spent watching the film, because thinking about it has made me pretty depressed over the past three days. So, if this review ends mid-sentence it’s because the timer has just run out, or I’ve stuck my head in the oven. To clean it. Because that would be more interesting than The Dark Tower.
I’m told that it is based on a series of books written by Stephen King, and that he has tried to be a clever fucker and interweave elements from his other stories in to this world. For example Pennywise is supposed to have come from one of these worlds that is connected by the tower.
So that’s a cool idea. It’s not really explained in this film though, although there is a decaying fairground sign at some point.
And I understand why it’s not included. Because the director, Nikolaj Arcel had a dinner reservation at 7:30 so he had to just rush to the end of the film without filling it with anything unnecessary, like story progression. Which is odd, because it appears he at least had a cursory skim through Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” in order to understand the formulaic structure that stories have followed throughout time. From The Iliad to Star Wars. He’s got all the elements, but instead of working them out in scenes, he does it with a couple of lines of dialogue.
Roland Deschain: The Tower is all that stands between light and darkness. For thousands of generations the gunslingers were knights. Sworn to protect it. Now I’m the only one left.
You’ve got the plucky young kid that is aware of another world and his protectors that dismiss the idea of adventure. There’s the reluctant hero, who takes half a conversation to agree to helping out. The dead father figure, because real heroes aren’t allowed to have parents (see every superhero or Disney film). They cross two “seas”, in this case portals, but the heroes have to go to make two journeys. And the villain who has a close historic connection to one of the heroes.
There. I’ve just saved you having to read that book or watch this film.
It had such promise. I feel bad hating it because I love Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey. If I was playing fuck/marry/kill, I’d marry Idris, with Matthew performing the ceremony, then at the reception we’d all get drunk and I’d let the both fuck me, then I’d kill myself knowing full well that I would never live a greater day if I lived for a hundred years.
Roland Deschain: Do they have guns and bullets in your world?
Jake Chambers: You’re gonna like Earth. A lot.
Fantasy films should be so easy to get right. Just keep adding weird shit then someone says a spell or finds a diamond at the end, and that’s a metaphor for love. Job done.
Instead they make all the, I don’t know, aliens (?) human because they’re wearing masks. Apart from one guy, who gets called ratface and told to promptly put on his face. We know that Walter (McConaughey) is trying to break the tower so that monsters from outside the universe can come in. So that set up for a great final scene where Roland (Elba) and the little kid (he’s not worth mentioning by name) are fighting off the monsters as they’re trying to come in through a portal. Unfortunately I’m a better screenwriter than Arcel.
I don’t know how to say this without sounding xenophobic, so I’m just going to come out and say it… European films don’t match up to Hollywood films, if you are trying to make a Hollywood style film*.
It was fine in the 80’s for Hollywood to end a film with a gunshot and maybe a pithy line. But now we expect a little more.
It felt like how in the end of Suicide Squad (2016) you wondered (if you were still paying attention) who they were going to defeat the witch. This was going to be the big moment that saves the otherwise excruciating film, so what do they do? Throw a bomb at her and shoot it.
Oh, so this all-powerful witch can be killed with explosives? So did we really need these superheroes? What’s that only one of them had an actual super-ability, the rest are just humans? Well that was shit.
Anyway, that’s kind of how it ends. No pay off. But that’s fine because there were never any established stakes either?
If this is the best that they could whittle out of eight Stephen King books, then he should really just go back to doing what he was good at in the 70’s and 80’s. Cocaine.
*Also, fuck the Greeks.