For a lifelong Stephen King fan like me, watching “The Dark Tower” is both fun and frustrating. The movie’s storyline does not closely follow the one set in King’s epic eight-book series; as close as I could tell, the movie takes elements of books one, three, four, and six and somehow reduces them to a 90-minute story with more of a beginning, middle and end than one would think possible.
Truth be told, it’s more like an alternate version of the story I’ve been reading since I was in middle school. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, necessarily; in some respects, director Nikolaj Arcel and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman have captured the essence of the story: the man in black (Matthew McConaughey) fled across the desert, and the gunslinger (Idris Elba) followed. But watching it is akin to listening to only a few bars of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”: you get the idea of the thing, but you are missing so very much.
That said, the movie is decent enough. McConaughey chews scenery as Walter, the man in black, and Elba turns in another reliably good performance. The story moves along briskly enough, and there’s a memorable sequence at the Dixie Pig that alone is worth the price of admission. King fans will delight in some of the Easter eggs and well-placed references to other books he has written. And seeing these characters brought to life on the screen is satisfying in its own right.
It’s clear that The Dark Tower books deserve a much more comprehensive treatment, which the planned television series could deliver. This movie is better than nothing, but not as good as you want it to be.