Film Review: The Dark Tower
At one point in The Dark Tower, 11-year-old Jake(Tom Taylor), taking in the strangely familiar place he’s just landed in, asks Roland(Idris Elba) if they are in a theme park. Until then, Jake was a New York City kid, using smartphones, internet and all.
Roland, known as the last Gunslinger, is his new companion in a new land: arid, desolate expanses with strange rocky formations. Jake has seen these in his nightmares, and we have seen them in the movies. It is the Spaghetti Western landscape and the Roland, the genre’s definitive lone hero.
The two vastly different worlds merge in Nikolaj Arcel’s The Dark Tower, based on Stephen King’s novels, thanks to a magical portal. The portal, a seemingly nondescript spot in NYC, is tucked between a movie theatre hosting a “Spaghetti Western Week” and an old clothing store called ‘King’s Jeans’.
Jake is the standard troubled kid with visions, coping with his father’s death. His mother is conflicted between believing his son and her new husband who insists that Jake is admitted for medical help. The silliness of these portions, the caricature depictions of the people around Jake, are appropriate considering his state of mind. The petty people of the real world serving as a nice build up to enter the place of Jake’s dreams of heroes and villains.
The dream itself is disappointing, despite two charming performers at its centre. Matthew McConaughey plays it cool as the suave sorcerer dressed in sleek black clothes, Walter. He is the modern incarnation of the devil who borderline seduces women as he hypnotizes secrets out of them.
Elba as Roland is solid as ever. Him and Jake strike an unlikely duo; together they must stop Walter from destroying the Tower, which holds the universe together. The action sequences are generic, the scenes involving time travel feel particularly artificial.
The few pleasures of Nikolaj Arcel’s new film is the way it plays with the tropes of Western, supernatural horror and science fiction. Its failure is in not being able to execute the emotional story at its core.
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