In the history of cinematic works, has there ever been a more strange relationship then Stephen King and the silver screen?
There can certainly be an argument made for it and, having written horror since the dawn of time it feels like, by the time you’re finished reading this article, odds are he’s probably written about twenty more novels Fifteen of which most likely taking place in Derry, Maine, featuring alcoholic writers and overly religious rednecks (If there’s one thing we’ve learned from Stephen King is that Religion is more evil than CANCER) and children with psychic abilities that are never explained or rationalized. Most of which are classics, while the others? Well, Stephen King has gone on record to say that he doesn’t remember writing some of his books, has been high on a combination of cocaine, Xanax, Valium, NyQuil, beer, tobacco, and marijuana.
And when some of your books focus on possessed monster trucks (Maximum Overdrive) and killer gremlins that hide in your toilet (Dreamcatcher), it shows.
The same goes for his motion pictures.
Of the at least ninety books Stephen King has written, fifty-eight has been adapted for film, to various degrees of success. Some of which are considered cinematic works of art – The Shawshank Redemption and The Shining (despite Stephen King going on record as saying he hated it) and then there are films like Lawnmower Man and Tommy Knockers. There is nothing on this earth more cheesy than a bad Stephen King made for TV movies.
Yet for years, what many consider his masterpiece has remained untouched, until now.
Often called one of the finest fantasy novels of its generation, the titular “Dark Tower” is a tower that stands in the centre of the universe and should it ever fall the world would go with it… Or at least that’s the recurring dream that Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), has been having since his father’s death. That and visions of a mysterious Man In Black (Matthew McConaughey); an evil sorcerer or demon or something in between (in typical Stephen King Fashion it’s never made clear what exactly the man in black is, or where his powers come from. This is the same man who brought to life a Cthulu-like demigod from outer space who likes to take the form of a seven-foot tall clown. You won’t get much substance from a Stephen King villain). Obsessed with taking down the tower he kidnaps children and uses their minds to attack the Tower. Unfortunately for the Man In Black – his arch enemy the Gunslinger, Roland (Idris Elba), is determined to stop him in his tracks. All of this Jake learns via his dreams leading him right in the middle of the battle.
Matthew McConaughey does what he can with this role, speaking an octave lower than his usual tone to create a sense of menace but thanks to the vagueness of his character he’s reduced to pantomime villain playing the role with a subtle flamboyance that undermines any fear he might create. Idris Elba, on the other hand, plays his role to perfection as he normally does, playing the role with a hardened grit to him.
For a movie based on eight books spread across seven decades. The finished product has surprisingly little to do with the source material with many of the plot points and character arches boiled down to its most simple elements which are hardly going to please hardcore fans of the series. It scales down large portions of the plot to maintain a ninety-five run time in the process creating a story that jumps abruptly from narrative to narrative right before things get too interesting. The editing lets down this movie tremendously replacing any scenes that might add a third dimension to the film with scenes that go nowhere and uninspired CGI fight scenes.
The Dark Tower is on general release now