Every once in awhile a movie based on a book hits theaters and blows critics and fans away. These are rare occurrences as most films based on books are flops. Just look at The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Silence of the Lambs and The Godfather. All films based on works of print that failed to live up to the source material. Then out of nowhere we are graced with the likes of Eragon, The Golden Compass and The Giver that take the source material and elevate it to unforeseen heights. We can now add The Dark Tower to this list of cinematic achievements.
Fans of The Dark Tower series have begged Hollywood to produce a live action film based on the ground-breaking...earth-shattering...mind...blowing...look the books aren’t good. They’re poorly written and unoriginal, despite what the small but faithful collective of fans would have you believe. So it’s no wonder Hollywood drug their collective feet when it came to adapting this lackluster series. That was until they hit upon an idea that would allow both fans of the series and the average audience goer to easily access the material. Make it unrecognizable to the source material.
Sure the foundations are there. Idris Elba (this reviewer’s best friend) portrays Roland Deschain, the last remaining Gunslinger while Matthew McConaughey plays the nefarious Man in Black. The Man in Black seeks to destroy the titular Tower in order to eradicate reality, while Roland aims to stop him. This remains consistent with the books; however, where they differ is that this plot is not adapted from any specific story. In fact this movies takes place as a continuation of the book series. And none of that is made more evident than by the brilliant addition of Jake Chambers, child psychic.
The inclusion of a child companion is a welcome one. This allows us to make a more realistic connection with the story and characters of the film. The audience has a connective tissue and Roland has a little sidekick. The more I think about it, the more I believe that this ideology seems to be missing in many of the weaker book to film translations. Imagine for a moment that Hannibal Lecter has a child sidekick he teaches to select victims, murder them inconspicuously, properly cook and consume them...this is a bad example but you know what I mean. Creating a character that the audience can relate to is crucial and that always works best with a child.
Let’s also address the stand-out in this film, the action. There is a moment where Roland unloads his weapon on a group of minions, hurls a clip above his head and reloads in the air. This segment, like many others in the film, is absurdly imaginative and well executed. The choreography is stunning and the special effects are marvelous. This is how you do action.
There are talks of this franchise continuing via a TV series though I worry that because a select few didn’t care for this interpretation we’ll get a more faithful adaptation moving forward. My advice...ditch the books altogether and continue with the continuity established in the film.