I enjoy a Stephen King book as much as the next reader, but I’ve never delved into his “Dark Tower” fantasy series. Eight novels that turn meta on themselves and also drag in connections to King’s other work? I’m not sure I have the bandwidth.
Turns out “The Dark Tower,” the new movie spun off from this expansive opus, is less an adaptation of King’s series than another new offshoot of it.
None of which actually matters much, because “The Dark Tower” is such a flaccid non-event it barely leaves an impression. In the King movie-adaptation universe, “Maximum Overdrive” suddenly doesn’t look so bad.
In the opening scenes, we hear about a Dark Tower that connects all existence, and about the Gunslinger, aka Roland (Idris Elba), who fights to protect the Tower. He’s an Old West figure patrolling this sci-fi world with a six-shooter. Elba looks embarrassed at the very idea.
Not embarrassed at all is Matthew McConaughey, as Roland’s nemesis, the Man in Black. McConaughey seems to be relishing the chance to continue trashing his recently respectable career; here, he deploys some kung fu moves that recall those moments in Elvis movies when The King would find an excuse to awkwardly show off his judo skills.
Into their duel comes a New York adolescent, Jake (Tom Taylor), who leaps through a time-space portal or whatever and joins the supernatural world. Jake has the ability to “shine,” which you might recall as a talent in another Stephen King yarn (there are cute King inside jokes scattered about).
This project, produced by Ron Howard’s company, was developed for many years with some high-profile talent attached. The directing job fell to Nikolaj Arcel (“A Royal Affair”), who might be regretting the decision right about now.
The film begins well (I liked the creepy people whose faces keep falling off) and ends well. But there is nothing in the middle — no compelling journey, no memorable characters. Much of the middle takes place back in New York, as though to save money on building expensive sets.
It’s only 95 minutes, which is not usually a running time associated with the words “sprawling multiverse.” There were plans for more movies, or maybe a TV series or two, keyed to this film’s presumed success.
Yeah, well … never mind all that. There’s still the book series — and given King’s productivity, maybe he’ll revive that and knock out a few new installments before the end of the decade.
“The Dark Tower” (1 star)
A flaccid non-event of a movie drawn from Stephen King’s fantasy book series. Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey duel over the universe in a film that offers no compelling journey or memorable characters — at 95 minutes, the thing barely sets up its story before it’s over.
Rating: PG-13, for violence
Showing: Cinebarre Mountlake Terrace, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood Cinemas, Meridian, Sundance Cinemas Seattle, Thornton Place Stadium, Woodinville, Cascade Mall