‘The Dark Tower’ review: As a person who didn’t read the books, I enjoyed it

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'The Dark Tower' movie review: Idris Elba as Roland Deschain and Tom Taylor as Jake Chambers in The Dark Tower
Idris Elba as Roland Deschain and Tom Taylor as Jake Chambers in The Dark Tower

The Dark Tower review in a nutshell: It’s a great movie for people who haven’t read the books. People who have read them however will probably have issues which come from cramming eight books worth of mythology into a less than 2-hour movie, aka IT’S NOT DOABLE. I don’t have to read any books to know that.

Movie synopsis

Based on Stephen King’s best-selling book series. A boy haunted by visions of a dark tower from a parallel reality teams up with the tower’s disillusioned guardian, Roland Deschain, who has been locked in an eternal battle with an evil warlock known as the Man in Black who plans to use the boy to destroy the tower, which holds the universe together, and open the gates of Hell.

Would I recommend you watch it?

Yes, if you haven’t read the books and have no expectations. If you have, you probably should stay away. Especially if you’re racist and you can’t stand the idea of Roland Deschain being played by a Black man, which is about 80% of what the uproar over the adaptation was about.

Click here to jump to the bottom for where you can watch The Dark Tower.

Or continue reading for a full review with some spoilers.

Full review of The Dark Tower (with some spoilers)

Stephen King’s magnum opus, The Dark Tower, a long book series with a sprawling mythology and epic battle of good against evil, has finally been made into a movie. I’ve heard it being talked about for years as this practically unfilmable book series — kind of like The Lord of the Ringsthat Hollywood has been trying so hard to adapt for at least the last decade, but hasn’t been able to succeed until now.

Though looking at the blistering reviews and the not stellar box office, they still haven’t succeeded. It made me curious to see what people hated so much about the movie, because the trailer looked great and I really like Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey.

At the same time, it made me a little sad for everyone involved — the filmmakers for working so hard to make the film and yet falling short of expectations; and the fans for not having their expectations met. Being the LOTR and The Hobbit fan that I am (though The Hobbit less so than LOTR), I know what it’s like to be disappointed when your beloved books are ruined by terrible films; or even better yet, to have a great film series made out of your favourite books and *still* be upset that they took unnecessary liberties with the source material, even if I can understand their rationale behind it.

(One of the many examples: Faramir in The Two Towers bringing Frodo and Sam to Osgiliath. What happened to “I would not take this thing, if it lay by the highway. Not were Minas Tirith falling in ruin and I alone could save her, so, using the weapon of the Dark Lord for her good and my glory”???)

Matthew McConaughey as the Man in Black in The Dark Tower
Matthew McConaughey as the Man in Black in The Dark Tower

But I haven’t read The Dark Tower series, so I had no expectations whatsoever of how the movie should be like. You’ll understand when I say I can’t judge a movie adaptation based on books that I’ve never read. But as a standalone film, I think it’s pretty great.

Idris Elba is badass — and not in the way that macho action stars like those in The Expendables posture and puff themselves up — but in the cool way that only tortured souls that are the last of a noble lineage of Guardians Of All That Is Good In The World (in this case, Gunslingers) can be. Matthew McConaughey is menacingly Evil, the story made sense, and the score is epic. I like the mythology that is hinted at in the movie, with the Gunslinger creed and all that, and would love to see more of it.

Idris Elba as Roland Deschain and Matthew McConaughey as the Man in Black in The Dark Tower
Idris Elba as Roland Deschain and Matthew McConaughey as the Man in Black in The Dark Tower

However, I understand that fans of the books probably will have a ton to grouch about, because there is absolutely NO WAY eight books’ worth of mythology can possibly be done justice in a single film. And apparently they didn’t do a straightforward adaptation either — they took elements of the first book in the series, The Gunslinger, and then created a whole new story while keeping to the overarching themes. That is probably the best way to incur the wrath of most fans, who usually hate it when adaptations don’t stick to canon.

The production company behind the film is actually intending to create a TV series to further explore the narrative of the books and Roland’s origins, a la Game of Thrones. I’m not sure why they didn’t go this route in the first place. It’s like if Game of Thrones was turned into a film; or even five films, one for every book that is out. We wouldn’t have seen the rich storylines that the TV series has had time to explore so thoroughly.

And after reading the synopsis of The Dark Tower series very briefly on Wikipedia, I completely see why it’s unfilmable. The story jumps back and forth in time in its telling, and characters die and come back again and sometimes they come back in other forms. I don’t even know why the filmmakers thought they could try to make a film out of it and be able to appease fans of the books.

I guess it’s good then that I haven’t read the books, because I certainly wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the film if I did. Which would be a shame, because Idris Elba really is great in it.

Idris Elba as Roland Deschain in The Dark Tower
Idris Elba as Roland Deschain in The Dark Tower

Where to watch The Dark Tower in the U.S.

Streaming services: The Dark Tower is not on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu or any other streaming services.

Rent/Buy: Get it on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, Microsoft, FandangoNOW, Redbox

Where to watch The Dark Tower in Singapore

Streaming services: The Dark Tower is not on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or any other local streaming services.

Rent/Buy: Get it on iTunes

Where to watch The Dark Tower in other countries

Not in the U.S. or in Singapore? Here’s a handy guide on how to find The Dark Tower (or any other specific movie) and watch it online legally, wherever you are.

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