Review “The Dark Tower”

Stephen King’s fantasy epic series of books finally gets the big screen treatment in the long anticipated The Dark Tower.  For me, the Dark Tower books have been some of my favorite books and are easily among King’s best work.  The 7 book series is a mixture of horror, western, fantasy, and sci-fi.

First and foremost, this movie is not an adaptation of any of the books in the Dark Tower series.  The filmmakers have said that this movie is actually more of a spiritual sequel to the books.  Spoiler warning for the books, the last novel brings the story around in a full circle, which is where we assume the movie picks up.  Since the movie is not a direct adaptation of the books, it’s not fully necessary to have read the books going in, but I do think it will help fill in the background and the character motivations.

Of course, the big question with any review, is the movie any good?  Well, that’s complicated.  As a fan of the books, I was partially upset that this was not a direct adaptation of the books, but it’s clear that the filmmakers are fans of the original novels.  There is a deep level of knowledge and reference, and I appreciate their attempt to give us something new in the same universe.  The movie combines elements from several of the books, but never gives exact scenes as they are portrayed in the books.

As a stand alone movie, it’s ambitious but it may be a bit limited in scope.  We don’t get much of a background about the world and only a little bit about the motivations of the villains.  We hear about a lot of things, but never really see much.  We get some great locations, but nothing really stands out as a big budget Hollywood blockbuster.  It seems more like a Syfy channel original program.

The casting is top notch.  Matthew McConaughey is a great villain, but we don’t really know why he’s trying to destroy the world, he is just an evil person doing evil things.  Much of the character work is given to Idris Elba’s Roland and the young Jake Chambers.  Elba is fantastic and perfectly encapsulates the character that I’ve known and loved from the books.  Jake is the de facto main character and it’s his journey that we primarily follow.  In fact, Roland doesn’t show up until the end of the first act, which feels like a bit of a waste.

I would hope that this movie marks the beginning of a new franchise because I’d love to see them explore the other parts of the saga, but the movie does end without leaving too much open for a sequel.  As a fan, I’m happy with the movie that we got.  It’s not what I wanted or expected, but I am happy to see these characters and this world presented on the big screen.

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