When an evil force threatens the safety of all worlds, a young boy, who dreams of monsters and men, travels to a mysterious world where, with the help of a gunslinger, decides to take matters into his own hands.
I want you to do something for me. I want you to use your imagination. I want you to imagine that the mildly popular Star Wars original trilogy went the Lord of the Rings route and existed as books before being made into a movie. Now imagine, having read those books, you heard that Hollywood was making a movie based on the series. What a rare occurrence! You’ve read these books multiple times, you know the characters like they were your friends, so to see them come alive on the silver screen will be an experience you may remember for the rest of your life!
So there you are, prepared to be blown away by the first in what will probably be a trilogy of films. How will they fit all that story into two or, gasp!, three hours? Will the characters come to life on the screen as they did on the page? You have high expectations and you know that, but everyone involved in the project tried their best to bring you this portal into your favorite world, so you temper your expectations and decide to just try and enjoy the film.The last movie trailer fades away and the lights dim; it is time.
Now I hope you are familiar with the Star Wars: A New Hope film, or else this won’t mean much to you. Are you still using your imagination? Good. Imagine that there’s no Emperor pulling the strings, or Obi Wan Kenobi lives on, never sacrificing himself, or that Darth Vader dies at the end. All of these have a tremendous impact on the story that we know. Motivations. Story beats. Who lives, who dies. Basically everything that you’ve come to love about the story either gone or changed until its nigh unrecognizable. That’s what we are dealing with here. I say the best movies are the ones that make you feel something, an emotion. The Dark Tower will make you feel emotions all right, none of them good.
I want to preface this review by mentioning that, yes, I am familiar with the books. In fact, one of the reasons I chose to submit myself to the punishment of this movie was that I was in the middle of reading the excellent Marvel comic series of The Dark Tower and The Gunslinger. Being morbidly curious, I thought to myself “Hey, why not check out that movie they made? I heard it was bad, but it can’t be that bad, can it?” You poor, naive fool.
Alright, it’s been four paragraphs and Michael is looking at me funny, so I better start reviewing the movie now. So we start in a typical New York type city where we meet Jake Chambers. Jake is having visions of gunslingers and men in black (no not Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones) dancing through his head and everyone he knows thinks he’s a bit cuckoo. He’s also been seeing people with seams in their skin, as if they are wearing a fake suit of skin. What’s interesting about this is that it’s at this point I’ve realized that they took ideas from the books, such as these Taheen, and applied them to this movie, yet they forgot to transfer over the story along with the ideas. Whoops!
Jake is convinced that the dreams and visions he’s having are the reason for the increased earthquake activity, indeed it will cause the world to end, so he takes it upon himself to travel to… the place in his dreams… and find the gunslinger… so he can… tell him to go to the place in his dreams that he doesn’t really know where it is? I’m not really sure what his plan here was, but it doesn’t matter because this isn’t how the story is supposed to go anyways. The first book in The Dark Tower series is called “The Gunslinger”, not “The Jake Chambers Has a Dream”. The Dark Tower story is very much the gunslinger Roland of Gilead’s story, but because this movie focuses on Jake, all of the motivations for what’s happening on screen directly clash with the motivations within the story in the novels.
Anyway, Jake finds a way to get to Mid-World, he just happens to find the gunslinger fairly easily, and tells him about a place where The Man in Black conducts his evil deeds. Why does The Man in Black want to destroy the Dark Tower? I dunno. Why did he kill Roland’s dad at the beginning of the film? I dunno. What are the motivations behind The Man in Black? I dunno. Oh, he may have spouted some nonsense about why, but who cares when you’ve realized you’re watching some awful alternate reality version of this story. The Man in Black, who goes by many names (except in this movie), has a complicated history that is only touched on briefly in snippets in the books. It’s enough to explain some of his being, but not so much that he’s no longer mysterious.
Roland too has a complicated “origin story” if you will, that is actually addressed further into the series, but even so, it’s hinted at that some tragic event has formed the worn down and tired Roland that we see at this point in the story. All of that is thrown out the window in what I can only imagine is a bid to lower run time to a measly 95 minutes and probably save money.
Back to the “story”, the Man in Black realizes that Jake has the shine, which basically means powers of the mind. He’d be a strong tool to use against The Dark Tower, so he must add him to the roster. So that sets them all on a collision course with each other. And collide they do! The Man in Black displayed many powers that most would consider god-like to this point, including the catching of Roland’s bullets like the world’s best goaltender. But that doesn’t stop Roland from using ricochets to bounce a bullet off the walls and collide with another bullet, changing it’s expected trajectory and slipping one past the goalie.
Bingo bango, movie over, the good guys win, the bad guy loses, Jake lives on to presumably become a gunslinger (that’s definitely not what happens in the books) and the quest for The Dark Tower is no more. Oh you didn’t know? The whole point of the books was that Roland was trying to reach The Dark Tower and climb it’s steps to find what lives at the top of said tower. The movie is about saving The Dark Tower so that Roland can live out his days with Jake?
The entire movie is confusing, the story is written in a way that, if you didn’t know the story from the books, would seem random at best, with no reason for anything that’s happening beyond “because we wrote it that way”. It’s like someone read the back of the book covers and tried to make a movie about what they read, but could remember most of it so they just winged it. I don’t know who this movie is for!
It seems the people involved in this film have forgotten the face of their fathers. The Dark Tower represents one of the worst Hollywood cash ins on a popular book series that I’ve seen. Sure, I’m particularly bugged because I enjoy the series and had certain expectations from the movie version of this story. I understand cutting things out for time; Lord of the Rings did it, the Harry Potter movies did it, and The Dark Tower movies would have had to do it too. That’s forgivable. But completely changing the story? That’s just spittin’ in the face of the fans that have followed this series from its beginning in 1982 to its conclusion in 2004. Do ya kennit?
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