Nikolaj Arcel’s The Dark Tower is the sort of film that makes you involuntary cognizant of your face drooping lower on your skull. It’s a particularly unsavory albeit mercifully short 90 minutes to spend in the company of Stephen King’s Cinematic Universe™, with even its minor delights drenched in a sludge of inconsequence. It’s a painfully dull film, one that lacks any sense of urgency and intends to sell you on the idea of more Dark Tower films. In a film featuring demons, devils, death, and the end of the world, it’s this prospect of more that’s most horrifying.
The film involves a troubled young boy named Jake (Tom Taylor) who’s haunted by visions of a looming apocalypse. He illustrates the images, drawing the concern of his mother and apprehension from his stepfather. As it were, these visions relate to a series of earthquakes, where the destruction of a massive tower in a separate universe rattles Earth. See, Jake here has the “shine” and he’s able to see images from this separate universe where the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) leads a cadre of epidermis-donning demons in the destruction of this dark tower. His lone adversary is a man known as the Gunslinger (Idris Elba), a figure of goodness and heart that Jake eventually meets to challenge the Man in Black in this misshapen and inert confrontation between good and evil.
It’s all a lot of gobbledygook and boy, does it certainly look it. The confluence of ugly computer-generated monsters and dingy hues render so many of the film’s sequences incomprehensible. A particular sequence that sees Jake and the Gunslinger confront specters of their past encapsulates everything wrong with The Dark Tower: its woefully labored attempts at pathos are only magnified when confronted with CGI demons that would’ve looked obsolete in the 90s, where every action is concealed by the cover of darkness and rapid, nonsensical cuts. In the midst of this we’re proffered two actors of the caliber of Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey, whose performances must survive the aforementioned formal catastrophes, but also a script That. Emphasizes. A. Befuddling. Verbal. Cadence. Much. Like. This. It’s a distracting element that reminds me of the verbal acrobatics that actors must acclimate to when working with a script from Joel and Ethan Coen; only the opposite. For what it’s worth, Elba has a few moments in the picture that project the warmth and pathos that The Dark Tower so often strives for, but by this point, the film has fossilized in its sludgy tar pit, best left never to be excavated or spoken of again.