I wanted to like this adaptation of the beloved series of novels by Stephen King. When I saw the trailer, I was excited for it. When I first heard that it was a slim 95 minutes, I thought that was a good thing. I hoped this indicated a certain economy of storytelling. Instead, it should have been the first warning sign.
There's such a rush to get to major settings or plot developments, there's barely any character development or motivation. Most of the first third is a headlong rush into the plot. Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) is a kid with a dead father who has disturbing dreams, which are really visions, of a malevolent sorcerer aka The Man in Black aka Walter Padick (Matthew McConaughey) trying to destroy The Dark Tower and the Gunslinger aka Roland Deschain aka Last of the House of I Forget and Don't Feel Like Looking it up (Idris Elba) trying to stop him. Based on the first book in a series by Stephen King, this is more an adaptation of a Cliff's Notes version with a capricious editor. Audience members may be driven to the books to learn what they’re missing, since so much is clearly left out here.
While most of the film moves at a brisk pace, the necessary exposition scenes feel interminable and provide very little useful information. Roland explains the Dark Tower and the nature of the universe to Jake, reminiscent of another fantasy movie starring Idris Elba that was part of a giant franchise (and is there a law I don't know about requiring such scenes to take place around campfires?). This movie somehow manages to feel too long and too short at the same time.
The movie is not without its charms: the smile Elba gives during a training scene, the dial-up noises the transportation technology makes, and McConaughey’s line about chicken. But these touches were not enough to rescue the film. Idris Elba is wasted, and Matthew McConaughey sleepwalks through a role that could really use more of his signature swagger.
My mind started wandering about two thirds of the way through, which doesn't feel like it should be possible for such a short film. Scenes of children in a commune being experimented on made me look forward to A Wrinkle in Time. In a later scene meant to create tension, when Jake tells Roland he's "no true Gunslinger," all I could think was, "Does he even know what that means?"
The Dark Tower is a Stephen King adaption about a dimension-hopping cowboy fighting an evil wizard with the aid of a psychic kid in a genre pastiche, and it is the worst possible thing a movie with that description can be: boring.