The Dark Tower

Writing MovieWRONGS

By Jim West

The Dark Tower

Directed by Nicolaj Arcel

Written by Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, Anders Thomas Jensen, and Nikolaj Arcel

Mention the name Stephen King and you instantly know you are in for a solid story as he has long been a master in several genres of writing.  Fans of his Dark Tower series have long awaited the film adaptation.  This has been a long time coming and many studios are looking for the next big series to mine cash from audiences.  Sadly this film does not launch such a series.  With four writers on this, it is such a sad thing that the fans of this series do not get what they have long waited for.  It can be a daunting task for any writer to adapt material from a book, and four writers have seemingly failed here.  I have not read The Dark Tower series myself, but I feel this film can still be judged for its plot and story as it is on the big screen.

Here comes the spoilers.

An 11 year old kid named Jake Chambers has been having dreams and visions of another world where a dark tower is under attack by a man in black (Matthew McConaughey).  His behavior and drawings have his mother and therapist concerned for his mental state.  They finally resort to sending him to a mental institution to be evaluated, but Jake see the intakers from the institution as the skin wearing monsters from his dreams. Jake escapes and goes to a house from his dreams and soon enters a portal that transports him to another world.  He quickly crosses paths with the gunslinger, Roland Deschain played by Idris Elba, from his dreams.  Roland is the last of a long line of protectors of the Dark Tower.  There are some hints at a pseudo King Arthur tale as the guns Roland carries are mentioned to be forged from Excalibur itself. A flashback of this backstory would have been nice in this film.

The man in black is named Walter, and Roland has been seeking revenge against Walter for killing his father.  Walter’s magic doesn’t seem to have any effects upon Roland and I would have liked to have had some explanation to why.  Again a backstory or flashback ere would have been most helpful.  Now Walter has been using kids with psychic powers to use them to tear down the tower, and Jake so happens to be in possession of this power referred to as the shine.  This sets off a struggle for Roland to find out where Walter is to exact revenge, and for Jake to protect his world from the destruction and evil that would wreak havoc should the tower fall.

Jakes and Roland end up transporting back to Earth and before anyone can blink the climax of the film is upon us.  I myself had to check my watch to ensure I wasn’t mistaken on such a short runtime.  It felt they paced the film well enough in the beginning, and then suddenly ran out of budget and had to rush the climax.  The story and film suffers horribly for it.  There is a rush of action, struggle, and wrap up that I was left with no real sense of victory as it felt just like waiting in a long line at a theme park for a 30 second ride.  Disappointing for me.  I can’t imagine how fans of the source material felt.  I definitely felt a lot was left out of this film. 

So how to improve this film?  In three words – DON’T MAKE IT.  Do not make a film of such an epic scale if the studios behind it are not willing to take the risk of world building and establishing a series.  I really liked the actors in this film, but the four writer’s failed Mr. King.  The studio failed Mr. King.  Now this would not be a writing movie ‘wrong’ review if I didn’t offer how to fix the film they made.  I would open the film up with a flashback of King Arthur and the line of gunslingers through time battling evil from the tower.  How Excalibur got forged into two guns would have been nice to see also.  Then create a scene of Roland’s father teaching him the creed, before showing Walter and the kids doing the beam attack on the tower.  This would open the story better.  Then do NOT show what happens to Roland’s father yet.  Hold that off for later in the film when he and Walter face off in the climax so he can echo the words of his father again.  Leave Walter alive in the climax…wounded but alive.  This would allow for a sequel.  The film can end the same way, but instead of hope it ends with the journey and struggle will continue.  The film hints at a Crimson King so this is where you can show Walter reporting back to his master.  In total you would need at least 6-8 more minutes of runtime to add the strength the story needed badly to lift it up to being worthy of a second viewing and some fan approval.

Thanks for reading Writing Movie ‘WRONGS’.   

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