In a world of superheroes, there is only one gunslinger.
If ever an author’s work deserved to be turned into a multi-episode series then it was surely Stephen King’s eight-book cycle The Dark Tower.
Yet instead of getting the Game of Thrones treatment, King’s epic saga has been adapted into a movie that runs little more than an hour and a half. And with the promised TV prequel spin-off still in development, apparently in the hands of Amazon Studios, it’s no surprise that the narrative here feels somewhat skimpy.
No wonder, too, that we are almost as bewildered as the film’s 11-year-old protagonist, Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), a boy living in present-day New York who is troubled by nightmarish visions of an evil sorcerer locked in combat with a noble gunfighter, and of a beleaguered dark tower.
Bring down the Dark Tower.
And things are barely any clearer when Jake goes through a portal in Brooklyn and ends up on the planet Mid-World. There he encounters the real Gunslinger, Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), and discovers that the sorcerer, Walter O’Dim (Matthew McConaughey), is trying to harness the powers of psychic children – of whom Jake is one – to bring down the tower and allow the forces of evil to overwhelm the universe.
The action builds towards what is supposed to be an epic showdown between Roland and Walter. But the story is too rushed to give proper weight to their duel. The dull photography and poor special effects don’t help matters, either. Elba, eyes narrowed, brow furrowed, delivers a one-note performance of weary stoicism, while McConaughey fails to embody evil incarnate, though he does at least display the odd flash of malevolent wit. If Amazon do get around to making the proposed TV series, they should probably forget this misfire and start again from scratch.
Certificate 12. Runtime 95 mins. Director Nikolaj Arcel
The Dark Tower available on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital from Sony Pictures.