Movie Review: The Dark Tower

Looking for trouble in “The Dark Tower.”

High expectations are not being met. “The Dark Tower” is finally on the big screen, but the lengthy filmmaking process that had Stephen King’s expansive mythology stalled for so long apparently took its toll. What’s presented is a flawed simple story of good versus evil that inadequately explains the massive cult following the book series has attracted over the years.

The producers of this long-delayed project focus on two of King’s central characters, the “Man in Black” (Matthew McConaughey) and the Gunslinger (Idris Elba). Oh, and they throw in a troubled kid (Tom Taylor) for the audience perspective on the supernatural proceedings. Jake Chambers (Taylor) has the “shine” that the evil one seeks to acquire.

What the story fails to give us is an adequate schooling on the given circumstances. The confusing exposition and the woefully inadequate character development left me uninterested in King’s alternate universe. This should have been a really cool world full of amazing humanoids and bizarre creatures. Instead, the alt-universe scenes look more like poorly shot outtakes from Westworld.

The only glimmers of hope in the story featured the old tried-and-true fish-out-of-water plot device. The best scenes were in New York City and involved the Gunslinger and the kid. Elba’s unfamiliarity with Keystone Earth and Jake’s attempts to school him on how things work are endearingly funny. It helped us understand and appreciate the developing relationship between these two characters, who are the supposed foundation of a follow-up TV series. I honestly don’t know how this TV project can move forward based on this disappointing film. Perhaps with a clean slate.

Performances are mediocre at best. McConaughey phones it in as one-note Walter. He fails to bring any chills even as he slickly commands people to “stop breathing.” Elba fares better as the Gunslinger, but we don’t really get a glimpse into what makes him tick. The scene depicting his father’s death was meant to get us emotionally involved, but was poorly planned and most definitely unaffecting. Meantime, Jake was a wash as the kid with the psychic abilities. I got more out of Danny Torrance in 1980’s “The Shining.” You remember, “redrum?”

What would have been the ultimate solution for bringing “The Dark Tower” to the big screen? Offhand, I would have taken the Harry Potter approach and explored the book series with a more-or-less chronological style. Make the Man in Black a Voldemort character and build up to his viciousness and power. Show glimpses of him along the way. Find a central protagonist and stick with him or her. It could be the Jake Chambers character or someone else. All I know is that the path chosen for the 2017 film is not the path I would have taken. Grade: C-

Matthew McConaughey plays one-note Walter in “The Dark Tower.”