I did my best to read all the books before watching The Dark Tower, and I am glad that I did, but the books didn’t help me gain any understanding with what was going on in the movie. Not that the movie is confusing in any way, because it is constantly going out of its way to inform the audience with what is going on, but because it is a radical departure from the books. That is not my main issue with The Dark Tower however, my issue is that they turned one of the craziest Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Western universes out there in to something generic.
The Dark Tower is about Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), who see visions of a strange land and a Dark Tower, and an ongoing battle between a Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) and The Gunslinger (Idris Elba). Jake seems to think that the current series of world wide earthquakes are due to the Man in Black attacking The Dark Tower. No one believes Jake of course, so he has to travel to Mid-World himself to find The Gunslinger and save The Dark Tower.
It probably made sense to the writers to make the movie about Jake instead of the Gunslinger because then Jake could be the avatar for the audience seeing all these strange things for the first time. Of course if any of this was strange it probably would have been fine, but in all honestly had you told me that this was just the next Maze Runner movie and in this one they can hop dimensions, I would have believed you. Mid-World is just a random place with a lot of broken stuff and a creepy Matthew McConaughey constantly feeding us Gunslinger trivia. The only part of The Dark Tower that really works is when The Gunslinger comes to New York and does his best Last Action Hero impression.
Thankfully the cast they hired was excellent. Even new comer Tom Taylor sold his role. The fact these actors had almost nothing but exposition for dialog and almost pulled it off as natural is a minor miracle. The Dark Tower would have been so much better had people just stopped explaining everything and just started having meaningful character interactions, or better yet shown us what they were explaining.
I don’t know if it was budget or lack of vision that kept Mid-World from being as interesting in the movie as it is in the books, but it was a shame that it felt stripped of everything that made that place feel unique. I didn’t need a homicidal train in the movie, but it would have been nice to feel like one could have shown up at any minute. Thanks to the great actors and the brisk pace The Dark Tower ended up being okay. Almost like the cheep cable version of the book that made you want a real movie. For people that haven’t read the books this movie might be easier to watch because they don’t know what they are missing. Though they could also go out and watch The Maze runner or Divergent again and have just as much fun.