Review: The Dark Tower (2017)

A movie reel
In the center of the universe stands a dark tower that protects the universe from chaos and destruction. Although we see the tower only briefly, the film The Dark Tower from 2017 shows repeated attacks that threaten the worlds that it protects. Earthquakes and mysterious lights in the sky are becoming more frequent in New York and other cities.

The Man in Black is orchestrating these attacks, trying to use the minds of children which he believes could destroy the tower and unleash devastation and death. The movie begins with a horror sequence showing an attack. We see the tower assaulted by an energy beam, but the tower is sturdy. Jake is woken from a troubled dream by the ensuing earthquake.

The characters of the movie, the Man in Black, played by Matthew McConaughey, the Gunslinger, played by Idris Elba, and Jake, played by Tom Taylor, battle over the tower. To connect the different sites of the story, door-like portals allow travel between worlds.

When the movie opens, children are in a playground until a klaxon sounds and alarms on a few children’s wrists activate. The kids walk robot-like into a dark building with a conical roof. Soon, the reason for their alarm becomes clear.

As the movie progresses, the Gunslinger’s prowess with a six-shooter becomes more and more amazing. For his part, the Man in Black can control other people with a whisper. For example, he can tell someone to stop breathing or probe their memories to help find Jake. Early in the film, Jake escapes from the Man in Black’s agents who are identified by a seam in the fake skin covering their face.

The movie struggles to balance the horror genre, westerns and fantasy. The three aspects dance around each other, starting the movie in horror and ending with a fantasy western style. As the story unfolds, we see more and more of the Man in Black’s powerful skills. The Gunslinger is empowered by the Gunslinger’s Creed that forms the foundation of his talents. As the film progresses, Jake discovers his own power, his shine.

At his mother and stepfather’s home, Jake is tormented by vivid dreams. He has been compulsively drawing scenes from the dreams because they are too real to be a dream. His family blames the visions and psychological distress from the death of Jake’s father. However, when Jake meets the Gunslinger, he learns that his dreams have been real.

Sometimes when I see a movie trailer, I’m not interested in learning more. This movie is an exception to that pattern. In the trailer, I saw a scene of an attack on the tower. I was hoping for more appearances of the tower, but those scenes are precious and kept brief and infrequent. Perhaps the attacks on the tower would seem repetitive and lose their horror if they were over-done.

As a film, The Dark Tower is successful and meeting its promise of a battle between good and evil. Evil seems to have the upper hand throughout the movie because of the Man in Black’s extraordinary skills. He can catch bullets and kill people with a phrase. The Gunslinger is tentative in his abilities, but Jake inspires him to continue fighting.

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