The long-awaited movie rendition of Stephen King’s popular book series “The Dark Tower” finally premiered on Aug. 4, and while it was a disappointment to most book fans it was considered a decent action/adventure movie.
Book fans’ concerns turned out to be well-founded, since the immediate response of both film critics and book fans was pretty negative. The plot is hard to follow for those who aren’t familiar with the books and there is plenty in the movie that is never explained to the average viewer. The lack of a developed backstory makes the film more understandable to those unfamiliar with the books, but the trade-off is being less engaging and losing some of King’s essence.
One of the main criticisms for the movie was Nikolaj Arcel’s and Akiva Goldsman’s script. Goldsman wrote for many popular movies, but he is also credited with differing completely from book in some of his other productions like “Insurgent” and “Winter’s Tale”. He did the same with “The Dark Tower,” but went even further as to nearly destroy some of the magic in King’s books by making the Man in Black cheesy and boring with his limited dialogue and all powerful abilities, and to never explain visual references like the ‘All Hail the Crimson King’ graffiti that repeatedly pops up.
Director Arcel was also criticized for replacing the varying genres of the book to ensure the movie is more mainstream and popular. For example, he shifted the focus of the film to teenager Jake Chambers, making him into a hero that goes on an adventure rather than focusing on the Gunslinger Roland and his internal conflict in the books. He also dumbed down the fantasy, horror, and Western genres to make it a more conventional action/adventure movie, but it didn’t succeed in making the movie more well liked—IMDB gave it 6/10 stars and only 61 percent of people liked it on Rotten Tomatoes.
However, where the storyline failed, the actors and production did a great job of making amends. Idris Elba perfectly executed the part of the internally conflicted yet still true hearted Western-style Gunslinger, and Tom Taylor made a convincing performance as the angsty teenager Jake Chambers. The effects and computer-generated imagery were well-made and well-placed, giving the action scenes the perfect amount of exaggeration to keep the audience engaged and still not make it cheesy. Of particular note, the slow motion used in the Gunslinger’s action scenes was the perfect amount to capture the impressive extent of Roland’s ability without making it too overdone and boring.
“The Dark Tower” books are complicated in their plot and vivid in their characters, but the main appeal lies in the unique setting and melting pot of genres the books contain. While most of King’s books are considered solely horror literature, this series mixes together elements of horror, science fiction, adventure, fantasy, Western and even drama. While that doesn’t sound like the most coherent grouping, it works for King to establish another land parallel to ours that resembles the barren Old West, filled with high tech machines and magical wizards. The eight volume series of books are lengthy, convoluted, and well-loved—all characteristics hard to effectively translate into a movie, hence why the series’ book audience was so apprehensive about the film.
The end of the movie gives the impression that there will be more to come in the future of the series franchise, but based on the negative response from both King fans and movie critics, it’s questionable if there will be a sequel. Even if made, it’s doubtful the same director and screenwriter will be at the helm.