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The Dark Tower review

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The Dark Tower


PG13. 95min

So I left the island this morning and headed straight to the Montrose movies to catch one of the very few new films opening today, the latest in a long series of Stephen King books brought to life on the Silver Screen. Big shout out to Adam and Alex.

Most of the time I love Stephen King. When hes on his game I think he holds his own with anybody in American literature as a storyteller. When hes not, well things can get a little bit dicey. The Gunslinger series, an imposing and ambitious project to be sure, is in itself a microcosm of Kings entire body of work. Its been many years since I read the series and I admit its a pretty cool idea. The books take on a life of their own as he switches gears mercilessly from one to another, much like his stand-alone novels careen from excellent to crap like the difference between THE STAND and DREAMCATCHER. The DARK TOWER series is not his first multi book endeavor that was, if I recall correctly, NEEDFUL THINGS which I loved. This one? Well not so much. So think back to THE SHINNING and how the book and film were so different and both excellent in their own ways. Thats probably because you have a great author and a great director with slightly different visions. I think thats the case here except for the fact that there is no great director involved. Danish filmmaker Nikolaj Arcel is no Stanley Kubrick and The Dark Tower is no The Shining. Among the credits, however, the biggest surprise to me was producer Ron Howard, who usually has a very good vision of whats good and bad in filmmaking. I think he probably delegated much of the authority to one of the other producers, Akiva Goldsman, who seems to have done most of the heavy lifting including writing this God-awful script, and providing some race-baiting blather for the press concerning his choice of an African American actor, Idris Elba, to play Roland the Gunslinger.

Basically Roland was patterned after The Man With No Name, the Clint Eastwood character of the old Spaghetti Westerns but to be fair his race doesnt really make much difference. He is the last of a breed of gunslingers whose sole mission is to stop the powerful and wicked Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) from destroying the Dark Tower. Why? Well because if the Dark Tower is destroyed then the universe as we know it will be overrun by darkness and evil. Make sense? Not really but remember its fantasy. Apparently he can only achieve his evil goal with the brain power of a child said to have the perfect metal empathy, or shine. Get it? The kid in question is Jake (Nicholas Hamilton) who lives with his mom and rotten stepfather. He has visions and draws pictures of the strange world Roland and the Man in Black inhabit. He sees whats coming but they think hes nuts. Goldman has taken a few of Kings best lines, among them the Gunslinger is Creed, and crafted a couple hours of noisy, stop action, slow motion shoot-em-up nonsense. As the series of books rolls on they go from world to world setting up battles between technology and the simple life of what seems to be the American 19th century but all of that will have to be sorted out in the sequels, if there are any. I shudder to think what Goldsman will do with the runaway train book and the rotting maggot filled bear...

And like I say Kings genius is the small stories that make up most of his books yet seem to get lost when a film is forced to distill everything to the simple plot outline. Not only that but it makes things confusing to the point of being ridiculous. There must be a reason it took almost 35 years to get this series begun and I fear the producers have forgotten the face of their fathers.



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