The Dark Tower (2017)

It is not like I went into this not knowing that it had problems. One of my friends who is a real King aficionado hated it so I was curious about what was unlikeable about it. The Dark Tower is a character in the book, and its shadow falls over everything. The Man In Black is a catalyst – a spur that drives Roland on, but he isn’t played how Matthew McConaughey plays him. He is a thing whose meaning is unpacked slowly, and yes, I understand the timescale over which a film operates is more condensed, but I have seen densely packed information rich films with way more layering than this effort. Nothing feels like it’s telegraphed, apart from maybe the reference to Cujo in the New York street scene, and the spider referencing It at the campfire. Everything else is heavy handed exposition, but exposition that doesn’t really explain too much. In the books there is a rich deep culture that King builds; one that draws from his entire oeuvre, and this film feels like it was scared of that scale. The first attempt to make It was similar – it couldn’t achieve the creation of a creature that approached what It was, and so it reduced him down to a horror movie cliche. The fact that It in the book used to stock horror creatures as masks to dig in under the lid that people were keeping on the fear, getting them primed for the real fear that they’d get a hit of when Pennywise was revealed in all his glory. Here that perspective is flattened down, like the drawings of a disturbed kid. We’ll forego the creation of a sense of a quest and trade it in for badly choreographed action scenes. And there we have the main problem – the book is a quest, not just where Roland moves through a landscape towards a tower, but through experience towards himself … which is really what all quest are about The decision to make this a sequel strips out a lot of the discovery that gives the book that expansive feel. The only thing to be discovered is that Jake isn’t insane, and after that? No discovery no friction, no need for the characters to work for their answers, or for the audience either. There really is no mystery here, and The Dark Tower? It doesn’t mean anything. If it doesn’t mean anything – if it isn’t invested with the meaning it has in the book, nor given a new one by the movie, then who is this movie for? Whose boxes does this movie check? I think I read some reviews trying to be funny and saying that this movie had forgotten the face of its father, but that isn’t funny, and here’s why: people fell in love with this book, and Stephen King nearly died as he was writing this book; and despite its flaws, that series had a lot of soul, and it took a while to take that quest, and the Tower has many layers For it not to mean anything is an intense kind of let-down, one that makes me wish we didn’t still have the promise of a TV series coming – that’s a promise they can break; this was one I wish they hadn’t.

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