Review: 'The Dark Tower'

The latest Stephen King adaptation shoots blanks
'The Dark Tower' compresses eight Stephen King novels into a 90-minute action flick. Lame.

There's been much head-scratching lately in the wake of David Weigel's book on the age of prog-rock: is that era better described as a catastrophe, or a calamity? The Dark Tower is a prog-rock movie, with its citations of King Crimson, long gun solos, portentous words and po-mo borrowings from kid's books. As scripted, it looks like something from M.Night Shyamalan—the man who would be [Stephen] King. In fact, it's a condensation of eight King novels, squished into 90 minutes of chalky, metaphysical space Western.

In the navel of the universe is an immense tower shooting out good vibes to the denizens therein. Outside the spell it casts are a menagerie of Lovecraft-ian beasts, lurking and waiting. Also keeping them back are the bullets of Roland Deschain, The Last Gunslinger (Idris Elba), who fires ammo smelted from Excalibur itself. There's a villain of sorts—The Man in Black, who is Death, Satan and Entropy all in one; he's played by Matthew McConaughey, smirking his lips off. And his scheme is to destroy the tower with the brainwaves of tortured children. One earthling boy Jake (Tom Taylor) escapes the Man in Black's henchpeople and travels through a wormhole portal to meet the legendary hero whom he saw in his dreams: bonding, squabbling, roaming the cindery wastelands, they take turns reparenting each other. The creed of the gunfighters turns up here as it did in the previews: "I do not aim with my hand. He who aims with his hand has forgotten the face of his fatherÉ" also translated as "We aim to please! You aim, too, please!"

Elba is able, and Taylor isn't bad—the instant when he discovers the death of someone close to him is quite poignant. Claudia Kim was charming as the head psychic in an old-West space village. Girls can't be trusted to hold off space lizards, so she isn't on screen long.

The sacred gun and holy bullets stuff is the kind of thinking that continues to our allow nation to be shot to pieces by its own citizens. This film reduces the coolness and negative space of the decades of adult Westerns to simplistic pap. Denmark's Nikolaj Arcel directs like a man who never heard a shot fired in anger. If "forgetting the face of your father" means "remembering all the movies our forefathers made, and filching from them" then dad's not forgot.

The Dark Tower
1 hr 35 min.

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