n the movie, "Contact," Jodie Foster sees alien life for the first time and utters one of the best lines in movie history: "They should have sent a poet."
That's how I feel after watching Sony's adaptation of Stephen King's eight-book series, "The Dark Tower." I have neither the vocabulary nor room to tear into this movie in the way it deserves.
The opening line of the first book in the series, "The Gunslinger," is an all-timer: "The Man in Black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed." Boom, done, put this book inside my head. The movie, meanwhile, takes pieces of books one, three and six and shuffles them together into a hodgepodge of terrible dialogue, pointless exposition and zero sense of adventure. Adding insult to injury: there isn't a single moment of Roland chasing the Man in Black across a desert.
Roland Deschain is a cross between Clint Eastwood and King Arthur. He's the last Gunslinger; a legendary order of knights/cowboys who fought against the evil magician Walter Padick, AKA The Man in Black. The MiB is also Randall Flagg, the villain from King's "The Stand" and "Eyes of the Dragon." In fact, "The Dark Tower" series ties most of King's bibliography into one massive tapestry, as it also connects to "It," "'Salem's Lot," and just about everything else.This is a series of books that has a psychotic monorail, a giant cyborg bear and villains dressed like Doctor Doom that throw deadly sneetches at people. These books are weird, wonderful and deeply flawed, but I love them.
et everything that made "The Dark Tower" cycle interesting is missing here. The tone and style of the film needed to be something like Cormac McCarthy's "The Road," but instead it's a spineless PG-13, a cross between a young adult adaptation and a shitty Las Vegas magic act. It's "Criss Angel Presents: Harry Potter and the Peculiar Hunger Games."
Roland is the anti-hero and main character. In "The Gunslinger" he meets a young boy named Jake Chambers from New York. The main thread is that Roland is desperate to reach the Dark Tower, which Walter is trying to destroy. The Tower is basically the center of the world and holds the different realities together; if it falls all the worlds will end. For Roland, the entire arc of the series is about balancing his love for Jake and his Ka-tet (his squad) and his obsession with the Tower. We're so deeply entrenched in Roland's journey that we agonize with him as he chooses between his friends and the Tower. What does the film do? It makes Jake the main character and Roland a sidekick. Every ounce of complexity from the novels is gone.
I wanted this to be good. I wanted it to make lots of money so we could see Roland's entire quest realized on the big screen. At this point, I think I would settle for a SyFy channel series with the same cast (Idris Elba as Roland is perfect) and a different "creative" team. The books are so cinematic, yet somehow the movie is anti-cinema: a soulless and cynical cash grab that takes something beautiful and turns it to garbage. There's no true Dark Tower at the end of this journey; just Sony with its hand out and fingers crossed.
The Dark Tower
Dir. Nikolaj Arcel
Old Mill Stadium 16 & IMAX, Redmond Cinema