There have been more than 60 Stephen King film adaptations since 1976. He’s been crowned the literary master of the thriller genre, and has spun more tales than a dozen highly trained authors could ever conceive of, which means that there are inevitably monster hits (“The Shawshank Redemption,” “The Shining,” “Stand by Me”), some stinkers (“The Lawnmower Man,” “Maximum Overdrive”), and of course some of my personal favorites (“Apt Pupil,” “1408,” “Misery”).

The common thread among his stories is that they are so wildly diverse that there is virtually no common thread. I would hate to see what his nightmares are like. On second thought, I would pay to see what his nightmares look like.

“The Dark Tower” had been rumored for a film adaptation for decades. It is odd to me that they chose the third book in the eight-book series to start the franchise (which may not continue if the box office doesn’t show stronger results), but I suppose the epic story really is so grand in scale that the film really can only be a snippet of the whole story, and maybe producers thought this was the most exciting portion. If that’s the case, the franchise is doomed.

Everything you might expect and hope for, including the best sequences, are shown in detail in the previews. This is never a good sign. The Dark Tower is a mysterious source of power that is essentially all that is keeping the universe together, and the forces of evil from running rampant on Earth and all other worlds. Walter (Matthew McConaughey) also known as the “Man in Black” is trying to destroy the tower with his army of skin people, and his secret weapon is the brain energy of abducted children. Only Roland (Idris Elba), the last of the famed Gunslingers, can stop him. With a .45-caliber revolver forged from the blade of Excalibur. Young Jake (Tom Taylor) holds the power to destroy the tower with his unique and pure mind power, so the battle between good and evil will come to its last stand.


The story is a whimsical fantasy mixing old West heroism, the power of youthful innocence and biblical evil. The film jumps right in with a slightly confusing attack on the tower, and doesn’t really get any better or clearer. There is simply too much going on that needs a few thousand pages of prose to set up and explain, and I can’t fault Stephen King for that in the slightest. This project is simply too epic and should have been a Netflix miniseries instead of a single film.

As a standalone film, it fails pretty miserably. Think of it this way; imagine watching season three of “Lost” without any other contextualization. It’s a little bit like that. I’m also dubious of the casting choices for the two lead roles, and that made the biggest difference for me. Elba is a fantastic actor, but when I heard that Javier Bardem was being considered for the role a few years back, I thought he would be a perfect fit. I still feel that way. Elba was a fine gunslinger, but there is something dark, mysterious and decidedly not British about the character, and Bardem’s strong silent approach would have been more fitting.

McConaughey got to play his usual cool self as the personification of death, but he was a bit wooden and on emotionless autopilot. I would have preferred someone with a more physically imposing presence, maybe someone a bit weathered and grizzled. Someone older and more masculine. It would have changed the marketing angle for certain, but I think it would have made for a stronger overall film.

Admittedly, I haven’t read the source material. I mean, seriously, who has the time? More than 4,000 pages is pretty time-consuming. I suppose fans of King in general and fans of the novel in particular will give it a look, and I’m curious to hear what the overall reaction is, but I for one wasn’t very impressed. There are certainly better ways to spend your time and money.