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The Dark Tower

USA 2017
produced by
Akiva Goldsman, Ron Howard, Erica Huggins, Genevieve Hofmeyr, G. Mac Brown (executive), Jeff Pinkner (executive) for Columbia, Media Rights Capital, Sony, Imagine Entertainment, Weed Road Pictures
directed by Nikolaj Arcel
starring Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor, Dennis Haysbert, Ben Gavin, Claudia Kim, Jackie Earle Haley, Fran Kranz, Abbey Lee, Katheryn Winnick, Nicholas Pauling, Michael Barbieri, José Zúñiga, Nicholas Hamilton, Inge Beckmann, Alfredo Narciso, Eva Kaminsky, Robbie McLean, Mark Elderkin, Matthew Thomson, Karl Thaning, Reon Van Der Watt, Lemogang Tsipa, Robert Whitehead, Charlize Churcher, Lara Lipschitz, Leeanda Reddy, Sara Cicilian, Lena Stein, Kenneth Fok
screenplay by Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, Anders Thomas Jensen, Nikolaj Arcel, based on the novel by Stephen King, music by Tom Holkenborg (= Junkie XL)

review by
Mike Haberfelner



For years now, young Jake (Tom Taylor) has had dreams of another world - dreams that he insists are visions, visions he makes very detailed drawings of. This has only intensified after the death of his father, and the fact that his mother's (Katheryn Winnick) new boyfriend (Nicholas Pauling) is a prick doesn't help much. However, mum is starting to worry about her son, so eventually she wants to send him away for evaluation. But he notices the people who come to pick him up (Eva Kaminsy, Robbie McLean) are actually in league with the baddies from his dream, so he bolts, makes it to a house he has seen in his vision, and finds a portal to the other world ... where he bumps into gunslinger Roland (Idris Elba), a man who has appeared prominently in his visions, and Roland gives him the full story: There's a baddie called Walter (Matthew McConaughey) roaming this realm who wants to destroy the "dark tower" that holds together all realities and guards the universe from extra-universal somethings because ... fuck if I know, sounds like a horrible idea, even for a villain. Anyway, to achieve that he needs children from Jake's reality who have "the shine" (some ESP shit), and Jake apparently has especially much of that shine, which is why it appears Walter is now after him. But Roland's after Walter to kill him, because Walter has erradicated his caste, the gunslingers, and now he wants revenge. Now of course, Jake doesn't want all realities to collapse, so the two team up to find Walter's headquarters, as Walter's trying to find them. So after many a shoot-out, chase, encounter with monsters and whatnot in both Roland's and Jake's world, Jake is taken captive by Walter's man and strapped to a chair so his shine can activate the cannon aimed at the dark tower - but Roland's close behind to safe him, and ... well, suffice to say all realities didn't crumble that very day.

 

Now I have to say this, the finale, a duel between master gunman Roland and ESP-powered Walter is pretty neat, full of ideas that might not be totally new (The Matrix readily comes to mind, but also the Franco Nero miniature The Last Pistolero) but well assembled, and even if the outcome is predictable, the film has found a clever way to get there. Too bad then that the same cannot be said for the rest of the movie, which basically feels like nothing more than a generic YA thriller, full of over-used tropes, cut-out characters and stale dialogue. The biggest flaw of this movie however is that it totally fails at world-building, both on a narrative and a visual level, and considering that much of the movie takes place in a parallel world, this is a gaping hole. This means on one hand that all the locations look very earth-like, a bit dull even, on the other we never manage to really have a emotional connection to the story, as to why the dark tower is so important and all - sure, it's explained in words, one just doesn't feel it. And since this is the central conflict of the movie, this lack is a significant loss for sure, as it robs everything of its dramatic urgency.

 

In hindsight, it's a shame but not a surprise that The Dark Tower failed (not only artistically but also commercially) as it was first announced in 2007, then going through years of pre-production hell before finally getting made, which often means original concepts get watered down considerably, and too many compromises being made along the way. Still, back when there were high hopes for making a sequel and/or a TV series developing the concepts of this movie further, something that was quickly scratched after poor box office returns.

 

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review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Tales to Chill
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Tales to Chill
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
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Tales to Chill
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Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD