Now, I want to preface this review with a confession.

I’m not a Stephen King fan.

I just can’t read horror! I can’t! I spook wayyy too easily. But the man has written some incredible work and accomplished a great deal and for that I tip my hat to him.

A friend tried to get me into the Dark Tower series ages ago, and to be honest, I was turned off partially because Stephen King wrote it. Anything he writes has to have large quantities of blood and creepy crawlies in it, right??? So I tried The Gunslinger, but didn’t get too far before I called it quits.

Then… just a few weeks back, I read the graphic novel. AND IT WAS AMAZING. It was so good I immediately picked up The Gunslinger again. I wondered why I ever put it down the first time!!! I devoured it in three days (the fastest I’ve read a book in a long, long time), and I’m currently on the second book. I was interested in the movie from the start because it stars Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey, both great actors, but I was more keen than ever to see it. So I roped my friend who’d tried to get me to read the books into seeing the movie with me =P

The movie starts with a boy named Jake Chambers. He has some disturbing dreams, and he draws all of them: a commune where children are gathered, a dark tower, and most frightening of all, a man in black. New York City has been suffering from quakes, and no one knows why. Experts are baffled. Jake does know why, though. The man in black is using the children to attack the dark tower, and if it falls, the world will end in darkness and fire.

No one believes him. His mother sends him to shrink after shrink, thinking he’s suffering delusions brought on by the grief of his father’s death. His stepfather wants to send him away to a special school for troubled kids. But Jake is not crazy, and he is telling the truth. In fact, he’s just found a house in Brooklyn that he saw in his dreams. Inside, he finds a portal. He steps to the other side to find himself in the world of his dreams – as real as he knew it would be. He sets out to find another man he’s seen, someone whom he thinks might be able to help – someone called the gunslinger.

The movie is only based on the novels, so there are inconsistencies between the two media. I only caught a few, while my friend who’s read all the books caught more. There were a few elements of the story that could have used tightening or reworking, especially near the end. Roland’s character seemed off to me, but that was due more to the writing of the movie vs. the books then Idris Elba’s performance.

In fact, my favorite element was the dichotomy of the gunslinger and the man in black as portrayed by Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey. Both are incredible actors, and brought force to both their characters and the eternal clash of good and evil they are caught in. Their performances were stellar.

I was a bit pleasantly surprised to see minimal special effects. Well, they are there, but only a few sequences used them heavily. I guess I would say… this movie wasn’t in your face about the special effects like a lot of other movies are these days. Probably not a big deal to a lot of people, but I thought it refreshing and worth noting.

Overall, it’s still an enjoyable movie. I wasn’t awed by it, but I definitely wasn’t bored, either. I do agree with my friend, who said that if you had little or no previous knowledge of the books, you’d enjoy it more. As a standalone title, it does the job. If you think about it as a tie-in or continuation of the books, you’re taking a lot of the enjoyment out of it for yourself.

– Kathleen

Arcel, Nicolaj. The Dark Tower. 2017.

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