Idris Elba and child walk through ‘The Dark Tower,’ unable to find plot

It’s amazing the forms bad movies come in. Some seem to have been made with the intent of critical condemnation. But then there are those other ones where directors and writers seem to firmly believe what they are doing is a solid piece of art, an interesting film that others will also find interesting.

‘The Dark Tower’ falls into that latter category. It is one of the perplexingly odd films to be released this year. Not in content or ideas, but in execution. All the makings of a good movie are here: solid actors, a good piece of work to adapt. But somehow director Nikolaj Arcel and four (yes, four!!!) screenwriters can’t figure out how to make the movie engrossing. One of which is Akiva Goldsman, who I am convinced is not a real person and instead is a group of screenwriters, producers, directors, and story developers who lease themselves out to film companies. People are skeptical that Shakespeare couldn’t turn out the amount of work he did in the amount of time he did it. But take a look at Goldsman’s resume and explain to me how that is a real person. How else could someone have written screenplays for both A Beautiful Mind and Cinderella Man and still have his name attached to the likes of Batman & Robin and the last Transformers film? His name seems to be quite respected amongst Hollywood heavies, but his filmography seems to have more blemishes than beauty marks.

When I see a name like that attached to a screenplay like this, I want to turn into an authority figure and lecture Akiva Goldsman on how he should know better than to allow a screenplay like this to start filming. But that also entails punishing the rest of the staff here, and they should be.

Stephen King’s The Dark Tower is seven books long, a sprawling epic chronicling the gunslinger, Roland, and his quest towards The Dark Tower, both a physical and metaphorical entity. According to King, the series takes inspiration from The Lord of the Rings and Sergio Leone westerns. Its genre is blended with the likes of sci-fi-fi, horror, and Western influences. The series almost writes itself. it seems interesting enough that I would love to see how someone can combine all of these elements into a truly entertaining series of films. The trailers made it look as if that was what we are getting.

So who in Hollywood thought audiences would be more pleased with a “reimagining” of the series?

The film has been given the Young Adult treatment. Instead of the story revolving around a gunslinger, it is around kid with psychic ability from New York City. Yep, audiences really need to hear this take on the story… again.

Matthew McConaughey plays Walter, the main villain in the novel who is now out to get the boy because of his ability. Idris Elba plays Roland, the gunslinger who must protect the boy and encourage his ability. Once again, the full weight of studio interference can be felt here. This treatment has ruined other films before, especially the disappointing film The Giver, with its source material full of some of the best ideas young adult literature can offer.

This type of film represents everything wrong with our current Hollywood system. Studio execs belittle the public by seeing numbers and believing that we want more of the same. Variety is the spice of life, film execs, why would we enjoy seeing the same movie over and over again? It is the equivalent of somebody taking a framed picture in your house and telling you that you’d like it better if he moved it a couple inches to the left. It’s still the same picture, but he thinks I’m dumb enough to think something different of it.

Politics aside, The Dark Tower is a confused movie from the get-go. It plods along trying to explain its dumbed-down plot but then rushes to make things happen. Here is an examlple: after the boy, Jake Chambers (I didn’t remember his name and I just saw the movie, I had to look it up), gets transported into Roland’s world, they wander into a village. Roland asks who the strongest is. A woman takes that claim. A couple scenes later, Roland and Chambers leave, but Walter wanders into the same village, knowing full and well who the strongest is. It takes him no more than a few lines for her to totally give up Roland’s and Chamber’s current whereabouts. If that is the strongest the village had to offer, I would really hate to see the weakest.

Oh the other things that are confused! Roland is supposed to be a great marksman. However, his first couple targets are targets any monkey without gun training can hit, such as humans and giant monsters. By the time we see Roland’s actual skill with a gun, it was the coolest scene in the trailer, so there was nothing surprising.

The actual Dark Tower’s purpose is never explained except that it can be destroyed by a child’s mind. Why children? Why does Walter want to destroy it? How did Walter get other people to work for him? And when it isn’t destroyed, why should I be happy?

All these questions I must ponder, but that is my job. For you, stay away from The Dark Tower. There are much better Stephen King adaptations. If you really want to test my validity on that: King has a history of publicly endorsing film projects he believes in (look at the trailer for Maximum Overdrive or his appearance in The Langoliers). In the Dark Tower books, he writes himself as a character. In the film, he isn’t around. The studios couldn’t even get Stephen King to play himself.

Rating:  (out of four)

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