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Film review: The Dark Tower – cowboys meet monsters in subpar adaptation of Stephen King novel series

Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey have fun hamming it up as a gunslinger and a wizard, but the film is let down by the poorly realised action sequences and disparate nature of the story

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 August, 2017, 2:02pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 August, 2017, 6:59pm

2/5 stars

A bizarre amalgam of science fiction, magic, monsters and cowboys, The Dark Tower, adapted by Danish director Nikolaj Arcel (A Royal Affair) from an eponymous series of novels by Stephen King, fails to get its disparate elements to work together, and often looks ridiculous in the attempt.

Jake (Tom Taylor), a young New Yorker, has visions of a strange world in which a wizard (Matthew McConaughey) is launching an assault on a mysterious tower in space by using the psychic energy of kidnapped children.

Travelling into that world via a portal, Jake meets the cowboy gunslinger Roland (Idris Elba), who tells him that the tower is protecting the universe – and Earth – from attack by evil monsters and demons. Jake and Roland then journey to kill the wizard and save the tower – and, therefore, the world – from destruction.

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Although the A-list cast of Elba and McConaughey seem to enjoy hamming it up respectively as a gunslinger and a wizard, that fun doesn’t translate to audiences. Hong Kong viewers will be especially bored by the action, which rips off John Woo’s techniques from the 1980s in a substandard manner, giving the film a dated ’90s Hollywood look in the process.

The film adaptation started in 2007, and has a troubled production history that’s seen it move through a number of studios and producers. It’s not difficult to see why the project kept getting shelved: the idea may work on the page, but cowboys, wizards and poorly crafted monsters look incongruous onscreen.

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Gunslingers, science fiction, and special effects rarely work well in films – notable disasters include Wild Wild West and Cowboys & Aliens – and this is just another example of how poorly the genres mix.

The Dark Tower opens on August 31

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