Combustible Celluloid
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With: Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor, Katheryn Winnick, Jackie Earle Haley, Abbey Lee, Nicholas Hamilton, Dennis Haysbert, Claudia Kim, Fran Kranz, Jose Zuniga, Victoria Nowak, Ben Gavin, Michael Barbieri
Written by: Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, Anders Thomas Jensen, Nikolaj Arcel, based on novels by Stephen King
Directed by: Nikolaj Arcel
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material including sequences of gun violence and action
Running Time: 95
Date: 08/04/2017

The Dark Tower (2017)

1 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

A Dour 'Tower'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Based on Stephen King's series of novels, this sludgy science fiction/fantasy dud reduces King's epic vision to a series of mindless cliches, surrounded by lazy dialogue and half-baked visual effects.

In The Dark Tower, Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) has vivid dreams about a man in black using kids to try to destroy the world, and a gunslinger attempting to stop this. Following a clue, Jake discovers a secret portal and learns that these things are real. He meets the gunslinger, Roland (Idris Elba), and together they set out for the place Jake viewed in his dreams.

He learns of the dark tower, which protects the universe from monsters, and how the man in black, a.k.a. Walter (Matthew McConaughey), hopes to destroy it and bring about armageddon. Jake also learns that he has "the shine," a great power that Walter hopes to harness. Roland wishes to take revenge on Walter, while Jake hopes to save the universe. Unfortunately, Roland is wounded by a monster attack and Jake is captured. Will Walter's evil plan succeed, or can Jake's willpower and Roland's guns save the day?

Noisy, junky, and without any kind of mood or rhythm, The Dark Tower connects somewhat to King's Shining universe, but this is as far from Kubrick as a movie can get; it's closer to sci-fi/Western disaster Jonah Hex. Akiva Goldsman is one of the credited screenwriters, and his usual penchant for over-explaining everything is here, but he and his fellow writers still can't make sense of the truncated plot or find reasons for any of this stuff.

Director Nikolaj Arcel tries to cover up his shaky footage, sloppy editing, and cheap-looking monsters with plenty of darkness, but the ruse is all too obvious. Oscar-winner Matthew McConaughey is flat-out awful as the man in black, coming across more as a smarmy, annoying fashion model than as a menacing or threatening bad guy.

But, as Roland the gunslinger, Idris Elba is the only cool thing in the movie, and it's a crying shame that he couldn't have been involved with something more imaginative (or even something totally different, like a new James Bond movie).

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