Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Dark Tower

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!   It's best not to think about how this property was in development hell for 10 years when you see this movie.



The Dark Tower – 3 out of 5

Stephen King is a powerhouse of a writer.  While I don’t really read many of his books, I am in awe of his work ethic.  I wish I had the discipline and the plethora of ideas to churn out as much material as he did.  Instead, I write a review blog where I make bad dad jokes and occasionally contribute a short story based on the films I review.  That being said, the man’s work has been adapted a lot.  In fact, saying it that way doesn’t do it justice and the word “a lot” should have been capitalized, bolded and maybe even increased in size.  Now, with a career as vast and long lived as King’s not everything he’s made will be adapted with outstanding praise—there have been some stinkers along the way.  Is The Dark Tower one of stinkers or is it one of the more successful ones?  This question is both a lazy way to end the paragraph and for the people who don’t read the score (maybe I should start putting the score at the end?  Nah).

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The Gunslinger keeps humming about walking 500 miles during this scene...
it's weird.

In New York, a young boy named Jake Hanson (Nicholas Hamilton) suffers from reoccurring nightmares about a Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) and how he is using special children to attack a mysterious dark tower.  In those dreams, he also sees a hero named Roland Deschain; the infamous Gunslinger.  Soon, Jake learns that these dreams are visions of a reality he never knew existed and now much travel to a mysterious world and help this gunslinger defeat the evil Man in Black and prevent his world, and all other worlds, from falling to darkness.

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He also dreamed about being naked in class after forgetting to study for a test
while his teeth fell out.  The next film will be about that one.

Honesty time:  I’ve never read The Dark Tower.  I have a lot of friends who love it and have regaled me with stories about how amazing it is but I’ve never taken the time to read them.  I have, however, read the first volume of the trade paperbacks from when Marvel adapted it to comics.  More honesty:  I didn’t really get into it.  The world was very detailed and, as a reader, I was thrown in with so little context that I didn’t quite know what was going on but I loved the art and was interested enough to one day consider buying the rest of the trades (I haven’t yet but I will).  That being said, I’m not reviewing the book.  I am reviewing a movie that is adapted from a series and I won’t critique the accuracy of it from the source material.  I’m only going to talk about how it goes for a storytelling and movie-going experience…and let me say, it kinda failed at both of those.

I won’t go as far to say The Dark Tower was horrible because it’s definitely doing some things right and you can feel that there’s potential.  Where this movie is falling short is all in its writing.  Overall, this whole film feels like it is a trilogy that has been edited and condensed to be one film.  It starts with taking too much time world-building at the beginning and that makes the first act really slow.  Next, it never takes the time to establish the greater conflict so when it’s stupidly easy resolution comes to pass there’s no weight and no feeling of relief or accomplishment that accompanies it.  Finally, the protagonist and antagonist are never given the establishment they need to make them heroic and evil.  The only reason that the Gunslinger and the Man in Black are mildly enjoyable is because of the performances.  From a writing standpoint, they were weak and had the real potential to be forgettable.

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See this landscape?  The feature felt like it was more concerned with building
it than it was the story and characters.  (I know that was a stretch but I'm
trying to justify using this picture)

So, if the writing is crammed and poorly thought out, surely the action must be great, right?  Well, it wasn’t and I will refuse to do that Airplane joke.  This stems from the big problem with the Gunslinger I mentioned earlier but we never really get to see his skills until the final half hour.  There is a single action scene that takes place once he and Jake start working together but the sequence was so poorly lit and so dark that it was really hard to tell what was going on or even see the monster he was fighting.  I started to question my eyesight it was so bad.  (Now, this could have also been a problem with the theater but I’m not so sure how bright it is going to be when it arrives on Blu-Ray and DVD.)  This lack of action only compounded the lethargic and boring pace the film was carrying for itself.  Forgoing action, conflict establishment and character development in favor of world-building made for a story that was impossible to become emotionally invested in.  Granted, the film ends up feeling like it is apologizing for this when the Gunslinger and the Man in Black finally have their epic showdown—and it is awesome and very exciting—but, by this point, it’s already too late and it’s not doing an already failure of a feature any favors.

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Why would you waste the natural badassness of this man?  Why?

I realize this review sounds mean and certain readers who liked the film probably have left and said some hurtful things about me and then heroically claimed that “they don’t listen to critics anyway” but I’m not a real critic, I’m a wannabe critic and I’m here to say the film definitely has some very strong and definitive setbacks but it’s not a horrendous film.  Even though it comes too little too late, there is some killer action during the film’s climax.  Additionally, the film has some genuinely funny moments but the strongest aspect of the movie (and the thing that saved this from being a 2 out of 5 for me) is the performances from Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba.

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One is a villain but they're basically both heroes...because they saved this
film.  (Oh yes, that caption was cheesy!)

I wanna add that there isn’t a bad performance in the entire bunch in this movie.  The smaller roles are done very well, I thought Nicholas Hamilton was very good as Jake, I really liked Jackie Earle Haley in his small role as Sayre but McConaughey and Elba are the main attraction here.  Both men are damn fine actors in their own right and each guy just oozes their own unique charisma and charm.  Since these two are so talented, both of them were able to make themselves commanding centerpieces despite the fact the script handled their characters so poorly.  Even though we never get to see Roland’s abilities as a the Gunslinger until the movie is pretty much over, Idba (which is my nickname for him because we’re besties even though no one has told him yet) carries the character with such gravitas that you know he’s a badass without ever having to fire a single bullet (still, it would have been nice to see more action).  Matty McC (that’s my nickname for him, we’re besties too even though he doesn’t know it) is so intimidating and sinister as the Man in Black and even though the final product robs the viewer of really getting a taste of what his power has the potential to be, he extrudes a wickedness that is palpable.

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Man, McConaughey was great but I think he might be borrowing Derek
Zoolander's hair.

The Dark Tower, for me, was a disappointment—a complete let down.  The trailer made it look amazing but what I watched was an unfocused, boring, meandering feature that did nothing to establish its two best characters, never bothered to develop its central conflict and somehow felt it was moving too slow and then wrapping up too fast at the same time.  It has some minor redeeming factors but this was clearly a world that needed time to grow and be nurtured and not one that needed to be quickly packaged and shipped out.  This film could have worked if it was stretched and embellished to the point to create this into an epic trilogy or, better yet, an HBO series (I know a series is in the works but, after watching this, it’s hard to get excited for it).  There was undeniable potential for this movie to be great and the start of a new successful film series but what was delivered felt hollow and even like it was a TV edited version of a great movie.  That’s just heartbreaking when you realize it was in development hell for nearly a decade.

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