The Dark Tower screenshot

The Dark Tower (2017)

one star

Jake Chambers of New York and Roland Deschain, the last of the Gunslingers, set out to protect the Dark Tower from the mysterious Man in Black.


Stephen King's Dark Tower series is his largest work, connecting not just the main books in the series, but nearly everything the author has ever written. Several related works by King have been adapted into films and television miniseries, such as The Shining and The Stand, but 2017's The Dark Tower marks the first time the tale of Roland Deschain has been turned into a movie. The story has spanned decades and the fans span generations, creating insurmountable expectations for the film.

Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), a boy from New York, has visions of a tower in the clouds when he dreams. He sees a Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) using the abilities of children who can "shine" (the same ability as Danny Torrance from The Shining) in an attempt to destroy the tower. He also sees a Gunslinger (Idris Elba) who lives only to find the Man in Black and protect the Dark Tower. When the Man in Black comes for Jake, he flees, crossing paths with Roland and joining the Gunslinger in his journey.

The Dark Tower screenshot

In some ways, The Dark Tower is an adaptation of The Gunslinger, the story from which King's Dark Tower series grew. On the other hand, it pulls select elements from a number of the later books in the series and the author's related works. It is, therefore, neither a perfect adaptation of The Gunslinger nor the ultimate retelling of the entire Dark Tower series.

Elba, McConaughey, Taylor, and the rest of the cast are fitting in their respective roles, but none of them are exceptional. For a story full of recurring symbols, the movie is somehow lacking any truly memorable imagery. It might not be an actively bad film, but its failure to be spectacular effectively makes this a disappointment.

Fair or not, The Dark Tower is arguably the most anticipated Stephen King adaptation of all time, with the weight of his entire life's work resting on the film's shoulders. Condensing such a wealth of material into a single movie and pleasing all existing fans is simply not possible. Some may find that an element of Roland here is at odds with an element of the character that they latched on to years ago. Others may have had their hearts set on a direct, faithful adaptation of The Gunslinger to be followed by several sequels. It's doubtful that this film is any fan's ideal vision of a Dark Tower movie. Perhaps most disappointingly of all, it's doubtful that this will result in many new fans either.