*minimal spoilers ahead
Oh, look! Another film based-on-written-material which will disappoint readers everywhere. My friend (white) was pissed that the integrity of the story was supposedly compromised by the casting of the gunslinger as a black dude, but that’s another, kinda racist, story.
I like Stephen King books-become-movies, but I haven’t read the books/graphic novels behind this one. I blame the local library for starting at book 4. Consequently, I have no prior expectations going in nor terrible disappointment coming out.
Okay, I lied, I had some disappointment.
If you do go to watch this, bring a healthy bag of sarcasm, there are plenty of opportunities for dark jokes and satire. I was blessed with a movie companion to whom I could whisper and receive jokes which helped make the film more bearable.
As usual, I’ll protract the following, this time with spoilers. I don’t have time to pussy foot around:
Plot – 5/10
Surely, by now, the plot is known to many. But in case you missed it, it veers toward pre-apocalyptic options. Think western crossed with fantasy wielded with sci-fi with a nice dash of mourning.
Thank god, they skipped the romantic insert…
For once, the flow for the story wasn’t terrible-
Oh, except you really don’t get enough backstory to understand anything about the gunslinger at all. From what I gather, the book really builds the story of the gunslinger and his motivations before linking up with the current person of interest also known as the special child who will… rain destruction on multiple worlds thanks to his abilities to be used as a weapon of evil when placed in the wrong hands.
While there is great emphasis on the fact that the Gunslinger and the Sorcerer/Man in Black (MiB) don’t like each other, there is barely any explanation as to why. So, yes, the Gunslinger’s father dies, but you almost miss that they are even related. And how did they just gloss over the fact that this Gunslinger is the only one remaining after the MiB wiped out the entire… race? legion?
So knowledge about the past kinda trickles in and it isn’t until you’re midway that you get a pale grasp on the whole relevant history.
Meanwhile, the real focus of this story is a boy who has abandonment issues, anger issues, daddy issues, and other issues. We follow this kid around for the majority of the film, much to my annoyance (more on this later). Apparently, this child, Jake, is the standard-bearer of potential. He has great power, with no sense of how to use it or how to protect himself from being used.
Jake’s abilities allow him to tap into knowledge on the threat opposing the Dark Tower – which holds multiple universes in balance and protects against invasion from demons in the realm beyond the tower. When the Man in Black notices and recognizes Jake’s potential, the chase is on! Jake is forced to hunt down the Gunslinger who’s his only hope to thwart the MiB’s plans and protect himself from being utilized for evil.
The rest of the film is rather loosely tied together with several key missions. Find the Gunslinger, stop the Man in Black, avoid being used as a weapon against the Tower, deal with identity crises, confirm raison d’etre, and save the world. Throw in a little space/time travel and there’s the sci-fantasy for ya!
It just had a loosey-goosey feeling throughout where it dragged on in the middle, rushed the ending, and had an okay tempo at the beginning. They should have reassessed the time dedicated to each “section” of the film to give it a better sense of flow and expand on necessary backstory components.
Action – 3/10
I know they tried to make it cool with those long-range shots that the Gunslinger had been making since the trailer came out. But c’mon! If you show us the good stuff in the trailer, what’s left for the movie?
A nice pile of nothing, that’s what.
Unless magic is your thing, the action is as plentiful as water in the desert. Not until the end do you get any real “action”, but it’s mostly gunfire.
I like action in films, and I came away very action thirsty on this one.
Characters – 7/10
Roland Deschain aka the Gunslinger – starring Idris Elba [9/10]
Imma get real, I loved Elba in the British show Luther and he delivered an equal level of appropriate angst and purpose to this character. I wasn’t a bit worried about Elba in this role, and he delivered a performance I could get behind.
It did feel as though the writers could have fleshed out this Roland character much more than they did. There is a lot of skimming regarding the depth of his desire for revenge, the self-loathing that simmered below the surface, and the “I am not worthy” sense that winks in and out. Instead of letting the emotional spice sing, it’s all a bit muddled; nevertheless, I can’t fault the actor here because he really punched those emotions through when it was desperately needed.
All in all, you get a decent feel for the character. It isn’t very strong or heavily striking, but it’s enough to get the water turned to tea if you catch my drift.
Walter o’Dem (Padick?) aka the Man in Black (MiB) aka the Sorcerer – starring Matthew McConaughey [9/10]
At last, an antagonist with excellent dialogue!!
(Although, calling him the Man in Black just kept making me look around for Will Smith…)
Granted, Walter/MiB isn’t the brawn villain, but he does come across as the brains and psychology villain. The callous disregard for human life, the way he delivers on his promises of death, and his unpredictable sadist nature was a beautiful flare. I just wish the writers had pushed this a bit further. Even a few more drops of darkness and it would have been perfection!
McConaughey really delivered on the malevolence, demoralization, dialogue, and the dashes of sarcasm that made this character shine in a badass way. Even the way he moved and his body language sold the character in its entirety. Granted, there are a few moments of… weak follow-through, but those are easily drowned beneath the body of acting that is delivered.
I wasn’t worshiping at the altar -by any means- but I was quite satisfied overall with the villain portrayal.
Plus, the hero vs. villain interaction between the Roland and Walter had a great chemistry throughout the entire film.
Jake Chambers starring Tom Taylor [3/10]
I don’t know. I have to hand it to Taylor for really selling me on the fact that this kid was an ABSOLUTE IDIOT!
No, do not whine to me that he’s a psychic and powerful. Because Jake has not one drop of self-preservation in his veins.
I can count on both hands the times he stood around, blinking owlishly while the jaws of danger snapped shut around him. Add on his neediness and desperate need for a father-figure’s approval, and they have succeeded in creating a character I absolutely despised!!
Jake was the princess in this film. “Help me, help me” all the time!
And, yes, they tried to make up for it all at the end, but let’s get real. I didn’t buy that coincidence and a sudden case of backbone could redeem Taylor’s character.
Secondary Characters/Everyone else
Despite the great casting choices, the writing and the plot heavily detracted from what could have been a delectable foray into science-fantasy.
Pet Peeves include:
- Jake as an entire character was a major annoyance.
- The plot was too watery and lackluster.
- And what was with that chick that they tried to slip in as Jake’s romantic interest about midway through the film?!
This is how you water down the badass in a fantasy-western. Chain the viewer to an idiot, pull punches on the emotional depth and history of the significant characters, and ruin the overall flow of the plot. I have to go back and rewatch Wild Wild West to see the concept done better.
Disappointed? Yes. But oddly enough, I thought it’d be worse.
Rating – 5/10
A solid meh.