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The Dark Tower Review

The vast army of readers who make up Stephen King’s Dark Tower ka-tet (the author’s own term for a group formed by destiny) have been clamoring for and often promised an adaptation of the horror master’s magnum opus. Previously attached names include J.J. Abrams and Ron Howard; Javier Bardem was appealingly rumored to play Roland Deschain, Gilead’s last gunslinger and everyone’s last hope to save the Dark Tower holding together the multiverse. A television series has already been revealed as the medium in which the adventures of Roland and his young pal, Jake, will continue. Those plans may come to a screeching halt after this most misguided adaptation. 

After Howard moved on, Nicolaj Arcel took the helm in a seemingly brilliant move based on his deft handling of the multi-part Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Unfortunately, the script attributed to Arcel and Academy Award winner Akiva Goldsman (whose acclaim is baffling), among others, jettisons the series’ opening novel, The Gunslinger, in favor of smushing together its narrative bits with those of the final novel. Instead of a sturdy entry into this dense universe, the just-over-90-minute film offers a watered-down, abridged version of neither novel. Roland (Idris Elba) pursues the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey, who seems to be auditioning for the role of Ron Wood in a Rolling Stones biopic). The last gunslinger teams up with Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), a teenager with the big “shine” (mental powers) needed to destroy the titular tower. The duo assaults a place called the Dixie Pig. 

Criticisms of The Dark Tower could be easily dismissed as those of fanboys raging against changes to a holy text. Alas, The Dark Tower is just not an accessible portal to Roland’s home of Mid-World. The Dark Tower seems more suggestive of the novels by Stephen King than based upon them. The film imagines an alternative version of how Roland and Jake met to battle the Man in Black. It neatly wraps up its narrative like the big-screen pilot for that aforementioned weekly series it is. A franchise with major potential could still evolve from the DNA present in The Dark Tower; Elba does perfectly embody Roland. Nonetheless, bad adaptations of Stephen King works should surprise no one. King adaptations are a dime a dozen; good ones not so much. (No pressure, It.)