Admit It, ‘The Dark Tower’ is Film’s Biggest Letdown in Years
The new Dark Tower movie starring Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey is something that Stephen King fans like Maya Prohovnik have been looking forward to for years. Unfortunately, the movie falls far short of expectations.
“I just felt so disappointed,” Prohovnik says in Episode 268 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “I was so ready to have that magical moment of watching The Dark Tower happen on the big screen, and it just felt like some other bad movie.”
King’s series is dark and wildly imaginative, but the film adaptation seems designed to be as safe and familiar as possible. “If you took every sci-fi adventure movie starring a kid and put them in a blender, and blended it up and poured it out into a cup, this is what it would be,” says Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley. “It’s the most average movie of this type I’ve ever seen.”
Fantasy author Rajan Khanna is a big fan of the novels’ Weird West elements, and was disappointed that those elements barely made it into the film. “I think they were afraid to go into that post-apocalyptic Western mode,” he says. “But if they’d done it with care—and drawn from the source material—people would have responded to it.”
Science fiction editor John Joseph Adams also hated the movie, but he’s a big enough fan of the books that he’s willing to give the upcoming TV series one last shot. “I have zero expectations,” he says. “But I’d watch the first episode. Grudgingly.”
Listen to our complete interview with Maya Prohovnik, Rajan Khanna, and John Joseph Adams in Episode 268 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
Rajan Khanna on characterization:
“There’s no character development for anyone. Even if you can admit that Jake could be the main character of this movie, we get introduced to him, and I felt like I didn’t have any idea who this kid was. … There’s nothing about Jake in the beginning that makes him likeable at all, or interesting—except for his dreams. I feel like it’s all plot devices throughout. There’s nothing about Roland that seems compelling. Unlike in the books, he’s not interested in The Dark Tower at all, he doesn’t even want to go there, he’s out for revenge. And why does the Man in Black want to destroy The Dark Tower? Why does he just like screwing with people? Sure, he’s like the devil, he’s a force of evil. But there’s nothing to any of these characters that makes them interesting to me.”
David Barr Kirtley on familiarity:
“A lot of the commentary I’ve seen has said you wouldn’t be able to understand this if you haven’t read the books, but I thought it was incredibly, stupidly obvious what was happening. … Every scene in the movie is something that you’ve seen in fifty other movies before, including the one where the character wakes up and hears his dad’s voice. It’s like, ‘I’m in a scary forest on another world and I hear my dad’s voice, and rather than waking up the guy next to me and asking him what’s going on, I’m just going to wander by myself off into the woods.’ There’s a scene almost exactly like this in Spaceballs, of all things, and if you’re regurgitating Spaceballs, isn’t that a warning sign to you that maybe you should rewrite your scenes?”
John Joseph Adams on representation:
“I think we all agree that Idris Elba was great, and I’ve seen some commentary about how diverse the movie is in general, which I did appreciate. … But I fear that Hollywood will take the wrong lessons from this. There’s this critical failure, and they’re going to blame it on that—much in the way we’ve seen in other industries. You see Marvel struggling with sales, and you hear this commentary from insiders saying ‘people don’t want diversity in their comics, and that must be why we have declining sales.’ I just feel like Hollywood always learns the wrong lessons from failures, and I’m afraid that that’s the lesson they’re going to learn from this, even though it doesn’t have anything to do with why the movie’s terrible.”
Maya Prohovnik on the Dark Tower books:
“You can find news articles that are referenced in the books that actually exist, so it’s this really cool real world crossover, and I started looking up all the places that it mentioned in the books in New York City, and I found the Hammarskjöld Plaza, which actually exists. … It’s right across from the building where my parents got married, and I was like, ‘Whoa.’ It’s such a stretch, but just the fact that the real world was written into the books, and then that I had some tiny connection to it—you know, it was right after I read the books, and I was all emotional, and I think that happens for a lot of people when they read it, because Keystone Earth is our Earth, there’s all these opportunities to feel like you’re really part of the story.”