“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” The immortal opening line from Stephen King’s ever-impressive magnum opus lets the reader know that they are about to begin a wild journey that they will remember for years to come. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for this long awaited film adaptation.
The Dark Tower follows Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), the last of the Gunslingers, as he and a young boy from Earth (Tom Taylor) journey across an alternate version of Earth named Mid-World in order to stop the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) from bringing down the Dark Tower which protects and keeps the multiverse in its place.
The film is labelled as a sequel to the novels rather than a straight adaptation which is where the first problem of the film begins; heavy exposition. This apparent sequel has eight novels and over four-thousand pages worth of history and characters to catch us up on rather than introduce us to and while it does a decent job explaining the vital elements it leaves very little room for anything else. Once we are introduced to the Gunslinger’s home, the pace slows down considerably in order to tell us about something.
The second problem with The Dark Tower lies within the action scenes. They were incredibly disappointing especially for a film with a character who is meant to be a legendary Gunslinger. The fight scenes are forgettable and at times even boring to watch even if the Gunslinger’s bullet and reloading tricks are really cool to witness. This is especially apparent with the final fight between the Gunslinger and the Man in Black.
Those familiar with The Dark Tower novels will know that they are connected to most of Stephen King’s other books creating a large multiverse of stories. But since they are novels it is easier to slip-in references and tie the different books together with The Dark Tower series plot line. The film attempts to do this but with such a short runtime of ninety-five minutes the majority of references are seemingly thrown in for the sake of it and there are so many that it quickly stops being fun to spot them and just makes it look like they are quickly trying to establish a Stephen King cinematic universe.
It’s not all bad though as The Dark Tower doesn’t have one bad performance. At times villainous McConaughey teeters on the fine line but even he is redeemable as it’s really his character’s dialogue that stops his full potential as the Man in Black from shining through.
Idris Elba and Tom Taylor as Roland and Jake are by far the best aspects of The Dark Tower. Elba gives a stoic and somewhat laid-back performance as if he is constantly saving his energy for something, but as odd as that sounds it actually works wonderfully for the character. The role of Jake is a character that could have so easily been miscast but luckily for the casting directors, they found child actor Tom Taylor who delivers the most dynamic performance in the whole movie, Taylor is so good that he even occasionally steals the scenes.
The Dark Tower feels less like an epic fantasy movie and more like a backdoor pilot for the upcoming television series which will tie into this movie. It may be boring and forgettable but it is not the worst Stephen King adaptation nor is it the worst movie of the year. But it is not worth going to the cinema for.
Author: Jordan Simmons
Editor: Precious Mayowa Agbabiaka
Keshav Kant, aka Mx. KantEven, is a med student tuned Executive Director of Off Colour!
You’ve probably seen her on Twitter and TikTok, both @MxKantEven, or caught her work on Off Colour's many channels.
From consulting on films & shows, manuscript review, conducting interviews, or hosting podcasts & panels, if there is some way to bring sensitivity and authenticity to diversity, inclusion and equity conversations, Keshav will be there.