Today: February 22, 2024

The Dark Tower

They said it was unfilmable. The Dark Tower, Stephen King’s opus, the series of novels that is at the centre of the King-universe of almost all his stories. They said it would never get out of development hell with Ron Howard desperate to direct both films and TV shows to bring it to the screen. They said Roland Deschain’s journey to screen would never happen. Based on this film’s results, they may have a point.

King’s source material, like so much of his output, puts the journey as a secondary thought. Primarily this is about characters. Indeed the first book in the series focuses primarily on Roland Deschain, here played by a typically gruff Idris Elba. But the film shifts this to Jake (Tom Taylor) a young boy living in New York who becomes unsettled at the series of earthquakes that tie into his visions of the end of the world. What he learns is that The Man In Black (Matthew McConaughey) is looking to destroy The Dark Tower, a monolithic pylon situated at the centre of all existence.

By shifting the emphasis to Jake rather than Roland the film loses the focus on Roland’s unflappable fixation on The Tower. The first in the novels is a bloodthirsty odyssey into a wasteland as Deschain pursues The Man In Black, who he knows can lead him to The Tower. In fact, so ruthless is Roland’s fixation on his quest he let’s Jake die. Such drama and character traits are never touched upon in the film.

Instead Jake acts as our portal into the strange world. But it never feels like anything other than a series of events strung together for the sake of it. If anything this feels like the opening episode of a TV show that sets up the world rather than begins a story. Nikolaj Arcel’s direction is solid, the visuals are often stunning and there is no doubt King fans will get a small kick out of all the King easter eggs on offer – Pennywise The Clown from IT and The Shining both get big, albeit forced, nods. It’s just a shame it leaves you feeling empty, like a hollowed out pumpkin that’s quietly rotting away after the Halloween treat that was the big King adaptation this year in IT.

For fans of the book The Dark Tower demonstrates the importance of staying close to the original text, for newcomers this will feel like a baffling fantasy come sci-fi that lacks direction, emotion and narrative drive. On this evidence Roland will never reach The Dark Tower, and no shall we.

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com

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