Even the most devoted Stephen King fans will admit that the theatrical movie versions of his novels fall into two distinct categories – fantastic and failure. Adaptations in the former category include “Carrie” (the 1976 version directed by Brian DePalma and the first of King’s novels to be made into a movie), “The Shining”, “Stand By Me”, “Misery”, “The Shawshank Redemption”, “Dolores Claiborne”, and “The Green Mile”. Unfortunately, the many failures far outweigh the successes and include “Cujo”, “Christine”, “Firestarter”, “Maximum Overdrive” (directed by King himself), “Pet Sematary”, “The Dark Half”, “Needful Things” and “Dreamcatcher” (and that’s not even including TV movies and unnecessary remakes).
Sadly, “The Dark Tower” (Columbia) only increases the number on the failure list. What makes it worse is that it does so in the tackiest and most amateur way, utilizing cheesy and underwhelming special effects and some of the worst acting in the history of horror movies (and that’s saying a lot).
A tired tale of good and evil, “The Dark Tower” pits Roland (Idris Elba), the last surviving gunslinger and a force for all that is decent and moral, against the notorious Man In Black (Matthew McConaughey chomping his way through the scenery in every frame in which he appears) in an alternate universe. The Man In Black is determined to destroy the titular tower, utilizing the brainpower of psychically-gifted children, to create a destructive beam, thereby allowing him to bring his evil ways to Earth.
Meanwhile in Manhattan, young Jake (Tom Taylor) is still not over the death of his firefighter father. Additionally, he is overwhelmed by his nightmares which he illustrates in frightening drawings that, you guessed it, depict The Gunslinger, the Man In Black and the Dark Tower. The persistent and unexplained earthquakes that rock the city only add to Jake’s issues. Of course, it’s the Man In Black who is behind the tremors. When his earthly minions fail to bring Jake to him (Jake’s strong psychic powers can be of use to the MIB), he takes it upon himself to find the boy and harness his abilities.
There is not a single redeeming facet in “The Dark Tower”. Director Nikolaj Arcel, making his English language feature film debut, disappoints viewers in every conceivable way. The screenplay, written by committee (including Oscar-winner Akiva Goldsman), should have been fed to the shredder. If there’s a light at the end of the (dark) tunnel, regarding adaptations of King’s work, it’s the forthcoming big screen remake of “It”. Let’s hope that “It” doesn’t stink. Rating: D-