Stephen King is notoriously difficult to adapt, some of his work near-unfilmable or at least with parts that are (i.e. 'IT'). Which is why film/television adaptations are such a mixed bag.
Made up of eight books, 'The Dark Tower' book series is simply spectacular, with wildly entertaining and imaginative stories, a deft mix of genres, unparalleled attention to detail and conflict and with characters that are far more than standard clichés. Hearing that there was going to be a film, part of me was a little excited but there was even more apprehension considering the scale and length of the series on the whole. Also because of the reception the film received, being critically panned but the audience reaction being much more mixed.
After seeing it, 'The Dark Tower' to me wasn't as bad as reputed to be and could have been far worse. The complaints however are understandable and valid, contrary to what those vehemently and in some cases condescendingly say those who found problems with the film do know what they're talking about. There are merits with 'The Dark Tower', but it has a lot of problems that cannot be ignored, no matter how hard people try. Considering the track record for Stephen King adaptations, it was useless expecting a straight up adaptation on my part and the film was seen with no aim to compare the different mediums and instead judge it on its own.
There are much better adaptations of King's work, especially 'The Shawshank Redemption', 'Stand By Me', 'Misery', 'Dolores Claiborne', 'Carrie' (1976),'Salem's Lot', 'The Shining' (Kubrick) and 'The Green Mile'. There are also far worse, such as 'Children of the Corn' (2009),'Sleepwalkers', 'Tommyknockers', 'Thinner', 'Dreamcatcher' and 'The Langoliers' (of the ones seen, there's some to go yet). 'The Dark Tower' is towards the weaker end though. As an adaptation, it's pretty much an abortion, asking for a straight up faithful adaptation of one book was a big ask but this feels like a severely truncated cliff-notes version of one book with fleeting references to the others.
This did affect the pacing and storytelling of the film, and reinforced the notion in my mind that the books are better adapted as a series of at least two hour films or a series of mini-series. One film of just over 90 minutes, whether in comparison to the books or on its own, just doesn't cut it.
It's not an irredeemable film by all means. The acting was the best asset, with a calmly stoic, gravitas-filled and the personification of authoritative dignity Idris Elba particularly acquitting himself well. Tom Taylor is also credible, instead of bland or annoying or both he holds his own. While views on Matthew McConaughey's villain were more mixed, McConaughey to me had a few uneven moments where he was too smug (blame the writing more than him though) but mostly he was suitably sinister.
For a limited budget, 'The Dark Tower' could have looked worse. Not everything visually works, but it's skilfully photographed, atmospherically lit and has some quite authentic production design. The action is choreographed reasonably well and has suspense, excitement and tension. The music has some haunting moments and positively pulsates.
However, 'The Dark Tower' is far too short and feels very rushed as a result of cramming in a lot. The film does try to do too much and doesn't have the length to do much with any of it, which makes a lot of elements underwritten and without much impact. Only in the action does the film excite or nail-bites, the script is far too watered down, cliché ridden and half-baked to make the exposition scenes work and characterisation is severely wanting despite the valiant efforts of the cast.
Not everything works visually. Some of the editing is sloppy and the visual effects look like they were made last minute and with the worst of budget limitations. The direction shows unease with the material, while the story is choppy and the ending rushed and anti-climactic. Pacing is erratic, the exposition is clunky and very draggy while the final third is over-stuffed and was in need of slowing down.
In summation, could have been far worse and it is watchable but as an adaptation it's a disaster and judging it on its own terms sees just as many problems. Even when one is trying not to compare, which this review really tried not to and only mentioned how it fared as an adaptation in half a paragraph or something, 'The Dark Tower' is very problematic on its own.
Oh and, despite being a subjective person, don't let those defending the film make you feel like it's illegal to dislike the film and have problems with it, this whole agenda-against-critics has become out of control and uncalled for. If one likes the film fine but learn the difference between fact and opinions and be mature. 5/10 Bethany Cox