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Running Time:
1 hour, 35 minutes

Rating: PG-13 Parents Strongly Cautioned.

Rating Explanation:
for thematic material including sequences of gun violence and action

Jimmy's Buzz Guide Review:
Eight volumes, more than 4,000 pages, and a multitude of exotic settings and alternative realities entered by two near-mythic antagonists, are here transformed into turgid cinematic mess.

Additional Info:
Matthew McConaughey ... Walter
Idris Elba ... Roland
Tom Taylor ... Jake
Dennis Haysbert ... Steven
Ben Gavin ... Soldier
Claudia Kim ... Arra
Jackie Earle Haley ... Sayre
Fran Kranz ... Pimli
Abbey Lee ... Tirana
Katheryn Winnick ... Laurie
Nicholas Pauling ... Lon
Michael Barbieri ... Timmy
JosÚ Z˙˝iga ... Dr. Hotchkiss
Nicholas Hamilton ... Lucas Hanson
Inge Beckmann ... Teacher

The Dark Tower
Young Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) is a troubled NYC adolescent still grieving the death of his dad, a fireman, in a blazing building. While the city endures a sequence of earthquakes, he suffers a series of frightening dreams about a barren wasteland, the eponymous tower, a grim gunman, a malevolent-looking man in black, and a pyramid-like building where boys and girls are strapped into chairs and shocked by machines—run by creatures with “fake skin”—that drain their psychic energy, which is propelled in a brilliant wave of light in repeated efforts to bring down the tower. Jake, a talented artist stematically transfers the images from his dreams to paper and posts them on his bedroom wall.

As it turns out, Jake is a special kid—a kindred spirit with another Steven King creation, Danny Torrance—in that he’s possessed of telepathic powers, and at an extraordinary level. What his dreams are revealing is an alternate universe that he escapes into when the evil dark man’s minions attempt to carry him off. There he meets Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), the last of the noble gunslingers, a corps of western-style knights whose purpose is to protect the tower, which maintains the balance between the various multiverses that exist and, if destroyed, would lead to the collapse of all reality. The tower is being assaulted by the evil sorcerer Walter Padick (Matthew McConaughey), who not only has hordes of minions and monsters at his disposal—including a coven on Jake’s earth headed by Sayre (Jackie Earle Haley)—but can magically compel anybody, save Roland, to do anything he wants, even killing themselves. (Why is never really explained.)

The plot trajectory from this point is pretty predictable. Roland and Jake gradually bond in their battle against Padick, who in turn becomes aware of Jake’s powers and seeks to capture him in order to use them to feed the weapon that will finally destroy the tower. The battle eventually takes them all to New York before returning to Padick’s lair for a final face-off between him and Roland.

The Dark Tower is the first big Hollywood effort of Danish director Nikolaj Arcel (“A Royal Affair”). While the plot is pretty barebones stuff, silly but not terribly hard to follow. It is made somewhat palatable by the cast. While it’s really an abuse of Idris Elba's talent to have him play this sort of laconic Clint Eastwood-style figure, he brings considerable authority, and a trace of redeeming humor, to the role, especially in the “fish out of water” New York scenes. Given the chance to play a snarky villain, McConaughey seems to be underplaying while he is really overplaying, turning on the oily smoothness at a range of 11 on a 1-10 scale. Whether you find that fun or irritating is a matter of personal taste. Nobody else much matters, though Katherine Winnick has a few moments as Jake’s uncomprehending mom and Claudia Kim likewise as a powerful seer, while Jackie Earle Haley is suitably sinister as Walter’s earthly follower. Michael Barbieri shows up as Jake’s buddy, but he’s wasted in what appears to be a part truncated in the editing room.

As far as the visuals go, The Dark Tower is not in the top rank of special-effects extravaganzas, especially when compared to another opus featuring a tower, Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films. Some South African exteriors of Roland’s world are impressive, but most of the forest sequences are gloomily bland, and the cinematography in the New York segments lacks style. As for the visual effects, they’re just passable, with the tower and Padick’s weaponized lair looking pretty threadbare and the portal sequences unimpressive.

There have been worse adaptations of books by Steven King, but this long-awaited one is almost guaranteed to disappoint his many fans while failing to bowl over anybody else.

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