(director/writer: Nikolaj Arcel; screenwriters: based on novels by Stephen King/Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinker, Anders Thomas Jensen; cinematographer: Rasmus Videbaek; editors: Alan Edward Bell, Dan Zimmerman; music: Junkie XL; cast: Idris Elba (Roland Deschain), Matthew McConaughey (Walter O’Dim-Ma in Black), Katheryn Winnick (Laurie Chambers), Tom Taylor (Jake Chambers), Claudia Kim (Arra Champignon), Fran Kranz (Pimli), Abbey Lee (Tirana), Dennis Haysbert (Steven Deschain), Jackie Earle Haley (Sayre), Jose Zuniga (Dr. Hotchkiss), Nicholas Pauling (Lon), Nicholas Hamilton (Lucas Hanson), Victoria Nowak (), Ben Gavin (Soldier), Michael Barbieri (Timmy); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Akiva Goldsman, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Stephen King; Columbia Pictures; 2017)

“Turgid sci-fi flick.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Danish director/writer Nikolaj Arcel (“A Royal Affair”) offers us this turgid sci-fi flick. It’s based on the series of eight novels by Stephen King. A team of writers Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinker and Anders Thomas Jensen keep it confusing, and uninteresting. It’s another King novel that becomes a dud when filmed. It has the possibility of being the worst King novel ever filmed.

The plot skimmed from the entire series of novels, involves the allegorical gunslinger, Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), out to save the Mid-World, a post-apocalyptic place, from the sorcerer, known as either the Man in Black or Walter O’Dim (Matthew McConaughey). The mean-spirited black magician is out to destroy the world by destroying the mythical Dark Tower, which is located at the center of the universe and is where all the planets exist in a huge circumference surrounding it. If the Dark Tower remains intact from the invading monsters, it keeps alive the “Keystone Earth, ” the name used for the Earth, and also all the other planets.

The story unravels through the eyes of the loner NYC teenager Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), who lives with his loving but clueless mom (
Katheryn Winnick) and her hostile asshole boyfriend (Nicholas Pauling). The sensitive Jake, whose firefighter dad was killed on the job, is gifted with The Shine – an ability to see into other worlds. He also can draw what he sees, and keeps the drawings involving the gunslinger and the Man in Black in his room. When he tells others of this, they think he’s a crazy person and force him to get psychological help. The only one who knows the kid is for real is the Man in Black, who gets his minions to track him down so he can kidnap him and force him to use his powers for evil. The Man in Black has a history of tracking down gifted kids with special powers he can use for his own sordid purposes.

Warning: spoiler alert.

The kid realizes he needs help from the gunslinger, the only one who has the ability to save both the kid and the universe. So
Jake enters a time portal he visualizes in the city and travels to Mid-World to ask the gunslinger for help. Battles ensue in the Mid-World between the good guy and the bad guy, and then the kid and the gunslinger get transported to NYC with help from the villagers who are attacked by Walter. Meanwhile the unstoppable Man in Black stops bullets with ease and seems like he can’t be killed, except in the final act the gunslinger plugs him in the Big Apple and, if you can believe, the world is good to go again. Just don’t try too hard to understand what happened, it’s just not worth the effort.

The best film moment is when Walter tells the vile boyfriend
of the kid’s mom “Stop breathing,” and he dies right on the spot.

REVIEWED ON 8/4/2017       GRADE: C