The Dark Tower

 

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A grim, straight-faced adaptation of Stephen King’s story adds more mayhem to the multiplex. A 

horror film for kids?

 

Dark Tower, The

An English boy in New York: Tom Taylor with The Gunslinger (Idris Elba)

  

The spirit of the film is summed up when the Man in Black says, “Death always wins. That’s the deal.” Matthew McConaughey plays the aforementioned – aka Walter Padick – a gaunt personification of evil. He has a particularly unnerving catchphrase – “Stop breathing” – the last thing many of his victims ever hear. The Dark Tower of the title is an odd but vital structure that apparently keeps all the demons and monsters out of our universe. And it is Walter’s mission to destroy it. So, once again, the poor viewer is plunged into an apocalyptic scenario in which the very existence of our planet teeters in the balance.

 

The film opens after a series of earthquakes have rocked Tokyo, Berlin and New York and our young hero, Jake (the Surrey-born Tom Taylor), wakes up from another revelatory nightmare. He lives in New York with his mother and stepfather and is the Chosen One, who not only sees what is transpiring on the edges of the cosmos but can accurately sketch what he sees. He also beholds demons wandering the sidewalks of his city, notable for a thin scar on their necks and a brooding stare. Everybody else, of course, thinks Jake is mad and his stepfather signs him up for “psycho camp.”

 

Actually, we could have done with some psycho camp. Nikolaj Arcel's adaptation of Stephen King’s literary series is played incredibly straight here, in spite of the presence of Idris Elba as a character called The Gunslinger, originally inspired by Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name. Indeed, the film is a genuine hodgepodge, drawing on everything from Arthurian legend and Tolkien to Sergio Leone. And if there is any humour, it’s so dry that it bypassed this reviewer (except for a joke about a hot dog). The film is, though, deeply frightening at times, which makes one question the 12A certificate provided by the British Board of Film Classification. But then maybe children, exposed to a diet of Harry Potter and worse, have become hardened to the dark side of the multiplex.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor, Claudia Kim, Fran Kranz, Abbey Lee, Jackie Earle Haley, Katheryn Winnick, Dennis Haysbert, Michael Barbieri, José Zúñiga.

 

Dir Nikolaj Arcel, Pro Ron Howard, Akiva Goldsman and Erica Huggins, Screenplay Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, Anders Thomas Jensen and Nikolaj Arcel, Ph Rasmus Videbæk, Pro Des Christopher Glass and Oliver Scholl, Ed Alan Edward Bell and Dan Zimmerman, Music Tom Holkenborg, Costumes Trish Summerville.

 

MRC/Imagine Entertainment/Weed Road-Sony Pictures.

94 mins. USA. 2017. Rel: 18 August 2017. Cert. 12A.