132. The Dark Tower

I could tell that The Dark Tower wouldn’t impress me from the moment its opening titles came on screen. It started with a message along the lines of “There is a tower that is our only protection between our world and darkness.”  “Oooooh!” I thought. “How dark and ominous! This seems like a real treat!” But then, (and I’m paraphrasing here) the next title came on screen:

The only thing that can destroy it is the minds of children. Lol!

I honestly don’t know what The Dark Tower is about. I mean, I sat there and watched the movie and everything, but its so disjointed and overstuffed that its not quite sure what story it wants to tell or why it wants to tell it. This is particularly interesting since The Dark Tower is adapted from the Stephen King book series, and while I haven’t read them and can’t specifically attest to their quality, the fact that there is a whole series indicates that the novels probably ain’t half bad.

But man, this movie is an arduous exercise in not just how-not-to-adapt-a-book-to-film, but also how to make a bad “universe” film in general. The thing about sci-fi or fantasy films that have extended universes and backstories and histories is that you can’t introduce too many supernatural elements, otherwise it’ll crumble our suspension of disbelief. You can have robots in The Matrix but the moment you introduce vampires, it becomes a bit silly (hence why the trilogy would have been better off stopping at the first one, since we got weird supernatural programs in the second.) You can have dudes ripping hearts out of each other’s chests and ancient Old Testament gods throwing their wrath down in Indiana Jones, but the moment you introduce aliens, we’ll be hopping on the next flying red dot out of there.

In the Dark Tower, we get Walter, the Man in Black who has old testamenty-type powers, a bunch of futuristic, world-jumping stuff, giant monsters who can teleport, weird demon-esque people who wear human faces, old west gunslingers and people who can read minds (and they call this power the shine! It makes you wonder if King or the filmmakers were making an intentional reference to his The Shining or if they just kind of forgot and didn’t notice how much that would take people out of the film.) Putting all this stuff together works in books, and it’s admirable in it’s ambition to make it work for film. But honestly, it’s just a bit too much.

This concept could work, or at least work better, if the film just got down to the nitty gritty of the beef between Roland, the gunslinger, and Walter, and didn’t spend so much time depicting the trials and tribulations of Jake, the kid at the center of the movie, whose mind could single-handedly destroy the Dark Tower alone (I feel so stupid just typing that.) There were enjoyable parts of the film, like when Roland gets to NYC and is taken aback by city life, proving that this concept could work but just told in a different way. Instead, we got the movie that tried to do too many things at once and failed. Who

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