No, it’s not…..but probably only if you already know the source material.
The Dark Tower might seriously be the only movie I ever thought was actually too short. I really do enjoy a concise piece of cinema; Lord of the Rings withstanding, a pretty standard mistake in films, both masterpieces and massacred pieces, is a run time that’s just too long.
The infamous bar scene in Inglorious Basterds, the highway opening of Manos: Hands of Fate, pretty much the entirety of The Room; many films, hits and shits alike, often could use a little more time in the cutting room, whether it be the result of overindulgent directors or expensive set pieces the studio doesn’t want to go to waste.
However this is not so in The Dark Tower, which is without a doubt one of the most hopelessly confusing films in modern memory. Guess it wasn’t the greatest idea to condense seven novels into 95 minutes (and thats including the credits.) Despite genuinely great performances from both Idres Elba and Matthew McConaughey, a lead child actor who doesn’t suck, and a compelling mythology, for anyone who isn’t a Stephen King faithful, this movie is going to be misfire.
The Dark Tower novel series is extremely vast, containing not only the 7 core novels, but references in a number of other King books. Best I could tell, the film contains references to the novels Dr. Sleep, The Shining, Hearts in Atlantis, Insomnia, It, The Stand, and probably a few others even I as a big Stephen King fan missed. None of these are are light reads either, many clocking in at over 1000 pages. And while I’ve read them all, I’m also a pasty loser who hasn’t seen the sun in longer than many vampires. It’s not fair to assume your average movie going joe has enough time to consume many thousands of pages just to try and understand a summer blockbuster.
A smarter move might have been to incorporate these elements as cool little easter eggs for readers, rather than critical for understanding the films plot. For example, the demon possessed house, powered by the energy of the Crimson King to be used as a portal to the Gunslinger’s dimension, known as Midworld.
A book reader will know the Crimson King as the ultimate evil, the being in the Stephen King universe that funnels all of the universes chaos to bring The Dark Tower down, and reality along with it. Someone casually going to see the film will know none of that and just wonder why the fuck there is the technology for teleporting devices in a world where wild west revolvers are still the most effective weapon.
Same goes for the lizard henchmen, introduced as Tall Men in Yellow Coats in King’s novella Hearts in Atlantis. Face shifting meta humans who kidnap physic children whose powers are used in an effort to take down The Tower, these monsters get a secondary glance at best.
But of course to understand these children, you have to read Dr. Sleep, which goes into detail about the physic powers of children, known as The Shine, and how their powers act as a life force to power evil.
But of course to understand Dr. Sleep, you have to read The Shining, the first real glimpse into what the powers of The Shining entail….yadayadayada. I think I’ve stated my point and then some. There’s simply no fucking way to understand the story at all without a near encyclopedic knowledge of King’s works.
Well, as someone with a near encyclopedic knowledge of King’s works…I actually rather enjoyed The Dark Tower. It has some awesome gunplay, compelling mythology, great acting; there’s a lot to enjoy here if you understand the material. Granted there’s a lot of liberties taken, but overall it’s not a completely unsuccessful adaptation.
My advice currently is too catch the film when it hits dvd. That way you can pause the film repeatedly to hit up Stephen King wiki…