At least this can be said about The Dark Tower: It dares to be different. While most high-profile franchise starters try to do too much their first time out, this thing’s guilty of too little ambition.
After years of being in development hell, the adaptation of Stephen King’s sprawling eight-book Western fantasy series has been distilled to a mediocre action film (* out of four; rated PG-13; in theaters Friday) with uninspired battles and iffy special effects. What could have been the next Game of Thrones or The Lord of the Rings is instead more akin to a 1990s Steven Seagal movie (and not one of the good ones).
The lone highlight is its hero: Idris Elba oozes a winning sense of stoic gravitas as Roland Deschain, a gunslinger of Arthurian-like legend from a rough-and-tumble parallel landscape called Mid-World, whose journey to avenge the death of his father and kill the dangerous Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) brings him to New York City.
King nerds have plenty of inside references to spot, from a picture of the The Shining’s Overlook Hotel on a desk to a toy-box version of Christine’s killer car. And there are Easter eggs aplenty from the Dark Tower novels, including several pointing to the ultimate big bad from the books, the Crimson King, and the mysterious Sombra Corporation.
The six-shooting protagonist digs hot dogs and Cokes, though McConaughey is pretty much chewing all the rest of the scenery as the over-the-top Man in Black. He’s devoid of his usual charm, and what’s left is a walking, talking nihilistic bore in a dark coat.
Make no mistake, though, this is a fantastical faceplant, and though Elba tries his hardest, what could have been the tale of an iconic gunslinger is a big miss.
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