Thursday, August 3, 2017

Little illuminated in 'Dark Tower'

Inspired by eight Stephen King novels, this summer movie may do a quick fade.
One of America's most popular and prolific authors, Stephen King wrote eight novels in his Dark Tower series. Instead of picking one of them, director Nikolaj Arcel and his team, which included Arcel and three additional writers, decided to make a big-screen mash-up of King's opus, cherry picking what they must have seen as choice elements for a screenplay.

The resultant movie -- The Dark Tower -- can be taken as a pean to unabashed eclecticism, drawing on everything from spaghetti westerns to sci-fi ploys to Tolkien-like fantasy.
Early fears that the movie would veer toward incoherence can be set aside. The Dark Tower -- which alternates between a world called Mid-World and present day New York City -- can be followed, but before it's done a different question emerges: Followed to what end?

Neither bad enough to offer the guilty pleasures of pure trash or good enough to constitute enthralling summer fun, the movie -- which clocks in at a merciful 95 minutes -- features a cast that includes Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey, each of whom plays a character representing a different moral polarity. Elba portrays The Gunslinger, a cowboy seeking revenge against the Man in Black (McConaughey).

This disreputable Man in Black, also known as Walter, killed The Gunslinger's father and has devoted himself to destroying the Dark Tower.

The tower, which looks like a giant stalagmite that has been painted black, can be found at the center of a circle that encompasses many universes. If the tower falls, demons will be unleashed. Horrors will ensue. The Man in Black will capitalize, reigning over the chaos.

To achieve his evil goal, the Man in Black appropriates the energy of specially gifted children to beam potent rays of destruction at the tower.

A Manhattan teenager named Jake (Tom Taylor) is the most powerful of these psychically gifted young people. The Man in Black wants to use Jake to destroy all the universes, which are connected by portals.

Nutty? To be sure, but most fantasies resist careful scrutiny, and -- in this case -- themes about sons who lose fathers barely resonate.

Add some creatures with skin that they wear (seams show) and a variety of other tricks that give birth to special effects that fall short of knockout levels, and you've got the idea.

Elba, a fine actor, looks great in a Clint Eastwood-style duster. Sporting an upwardly brushed hair style that might make Christopher Walken envious, McConaughey does his best to convey the eerie villainy of a character who refers to his various abilities in the plural, calling them "magics."

The Man in Black can work simply, as well, killing people by passing a hand over their faces and telling them to "stop breathing."

It seems cavalier to dismiss a movie inspired by eight novels with a short review, but I see no reason to belabor this one or to suggest that I returned from any of the movie's various universes with anything resembling great rewards. Despite lots of huffing and puffing on the part of the filmmakers, The Dark Tower seems far too easy to shrug off.

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