The 400-Word Review: The Dark Tower

By Sean Collier

August 9, 2017

Just go ahead and kiss already.

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I do not count the vast Dark Tower series as one of my fandoms, but I understand that a great many people do. Stephen King’s magnum opus — which he considers one ongoing novel, with a current page-count exceeding 4,200 — has long inspired raves from those readers patient enough to approach it.

While it has been adapted, in parts, into comic-book form, a film or television adaptation has always sat somewhere between a pipe dream and development hell. The first installment in the series, The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger, is now 35 years old; I can only imagine the excitement that long-term fans must’ve experienced when a cinematic adaptation was finally promised (and with Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey in key roles, yet).

And I can only imagine the profound disappointment — almost betrayal — that those fans will experience when they discover that this long-awaited adaptation is an artless, uninspired mess.

Perhaps a devoted fan can justify why, with so much source material to work from, the events depicted in The Dark Tower are actually an original story; I cannot profess to have waded into the series’ lore enough to understand the implications of this, but the film Dark Tower is actually a sequel to what stands as the series’ final chronological chapter.


Yes, after all these years and 4,200 pages of options, the filmmakers behind this Dark Tower (assign blame as you please to chief producer Ron Howard, writer/director Nikolaj Arcel and assorted additional screenwriters Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner and Anders Thomas Jensen) opted instead to tell a new story, as near as I can tell.

I think — though I cannot be sure — that also means that, in occurring after the events of the series, the film contains spoilers for anyone who has not read the marathon work. No matter, though; should anyone unfamiliar with King’s work make it to the theater, they won’t have any idea what’s going on. The movie apathetically leaves uninformed viewers behind, assuming that King’s world is so vivid and intriguing that it will enthrall audiences without them ever having to explain a thing.

That’s not what happens.

Elba and McConaughey are fine, in that they glower and pontificate with enough sincerity to convince you that they, at least, know what’s happening. It doesn’t matter, though; sadly, The Dark Tower is an unremarkable whimper of a film.

My Rating: 3/10

Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at



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