Here’s something of a disclaimer: I have not read any of the Dark Tower series of books written by Stephen King, of which I understand there are several. I have no idea if this film is based on the first book, or is a rushed compendium of all of them, but I suspect it is the latter, as it would explain why the film races by in 95 minutes bereft of any weight or meaningful pause. This film is so rushed its unable to expand its characters beyond basic archetypes, it’s some kind of good vs evil saga, in which the bland battle against the bored.
There is clearly some kind of grand mythology at play, some kind of melting-pot of science fiction and fantasy that I guess can be found in the books, but it’s utterly AWOL here. Its confusing to people like me who are unfamiliar with the book saga and likely frustratingly simplistic to fans of that book series- perhaps like what condensing the Lord of the Rings trilogy into a single movie would be like- it just can’t work.
We have teleport stations to other worlds, demons attempting to invade our universe from some Outer Dark, a Dark Tower (I feel like asking Stephen King whether it should have been a White Tower, as its protecting the universe from Darkness but perhaps I’m being tetchy and its explained in the books) at the centre of the universe that thwarts them. Our bad guy Walter Paddick (Matthew McConaughey) is attempting to destroy the Dark Tower and our hero, Roland Deschain (Idris Elba, who between this and that Star Trek film should perhaps just give up on Hollywood), is the Gunslinger, who is trying to destroy Paddick before he succeeds. Its hardly mind-bogglingly imaginative stuff, and it’s not aided by having some kid who is (yawn) the Chosen One who Paddick can somehow use to power some weird laser cannon to finally destroy the Dark Tower and wreak the Apocalypse upon all creation. It really is that stupid. Maybe there was nuance and dramatic tension in the books, but there’s none of that here.
I suspect that this would have worked much better as a series on HBO or Netflix, across several seasons. Why exactly anyone thought this would satisfy as such an empty, thrilless, joyless movie is beyond me, the irony of the ending teasing further adventures just another example of Hollywood thinking absolutely anything can be a franchise. I am getting so pissed off with the films that don’t just end (ta da! ‘THE END’ like films used to), instead closing with a tease for something that will never happen- it’s just insulting to the audience and anyone who has invested any time watching it.