Movie Review: The Dark Tower

Some version of King’s complicated genre-and-canon-spanning series makes it to the big screen.

Whether it’s worth making it to the theatre to watch is another matter.

Title: The Dark Tower

Director: Nikolaj Arcel
Writers: Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, Anders Thomas Jensen, and Nikolaj Arcel
From the novel series by Stephen King


Idris Elba as Roland Deschain / The Gunslinger
Tom Taylor as Jake Chambers
Matthew McConaughey as The Man in Black
Katheryn Winnick as Laurie Chambers
Jackie Earle Haley as Sayre
Abbey Lee as Tirana
Nicholas Hamilton as Lucas Hanson
Nicholas Pauling as Lon
Claudia Kim as Arra Champignon
Dennis Haysbert as Steven Deschain
Fran Kranz as Pimli
José Zúñiga as Dr. Hotchkiss
Victoria Nowak as Injured Child
Michael Barbieri as Timmy
Ben Gavin as Soldier
Dan Hirst as Village Engineer
Kenneth Fok as Johnny
Zak Rowlands as Taheen Tech
Keci Eatock as Vampire
David Casper Smith as Imperial Vampire
Stephen Stanton / Mark Elderkin as Rat Man


Jake, a young Chosen One with Special Abilities and Parent-related issues discovers that he is not being paranoid and delusional: the Evil People from the Other World want to kidnap him for Nefarious Purposes. By being especially clever, he escapes, passes through a portal, and meets the last Gunslinger, a man named Roland. Can they save the Land from the Man in Black?

And, when Roland and Jake cross back to our world, will Roland survive being such a Fish Out of Water long enough to stop the Evil Plot that threatens the Whole Universe?

High Points:

In the end, this film is watchable, with some appeal to the older kid/YA audience….

Low Points:

….but it’s also predictable– except when it’s completely confusing– and largely forgettable.

The Scores:

Originality: 2/6 I have read a good deal of King’s work, but not the series from which this film takes its inspiration. It’s an adaptation, and a rather trope-filled one at that.

Effects: 5/6 The film features some strong special effects.

Acting: 5/6 The film includes strong performance: Elba in particular, as the haunted Gunslinger with a weapon forged from Excalibur. I have nothing against Matthew McConaughey, but his motivation is obscure and it’s clear Jackie Earle Haley, who portrays one of his henchmen, would have played a more interesting Man in Black.

Production: 6/6

Story: 2/6 The familiar tropes help hold together a story that feels very stitched together, a hack job of richer source material.

Emotional Response: 3/6

Overall: 3/6 I cannot help but think an epic novel series with a complex world would be better-suited to a prestige TV show rather than a summer movie.

I’m told such a series is in the works.

In total, The Dark Tower receives 26/42

2 replies on “Movie Review: The Dark Tower”

  1. Seems like a squandered opportunity. The book series (or its sequel, as this movie is supposed to be) would have made for a great TV series. Each book had a distinctive theme and/or setting, so it would have been much like American Horror Story or True Detective.

    HBO needs something big to follow up Game of Thrones when it wraps next year.

    • I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I have read the book series. I also wondered how a single movie could possibly do any of it justice. Especially given the sweeping linkages with other King works (like the stop-off in the world of The Stand, or a certain character that disappeared from another story getting a redemption arc).

      I can see the original story working well as a multi-year adventure series with some careful reorganization of the narrative and possible removal of some of the more obvious Deus Ex Machina moments where King himself either directly tinkers with events (leaving notes for Roland, etc.), or actually shows up as part of events. The initial couple of volumes would need some careful rejiggering, though, and might work best as flashbacks. And then there’s the huge flashback to Roland’s past and that mind exploding ending when he gets to the Dark Tower.

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