PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Stephen is already the King of horror.
But his latest project offers horror as one component on a combo plate.
The Dark Tower is a sci-fi horror western action-thriller fantasy epic – if there is such a thing.
But it’s not a straightforward adaptation of a Stephen King book or book series into a movie.
Rather, it can be seen as a sequel or continuation of the story King tells in his eight-book series.
So is it an amalgam or a hodgepodge?
Well, make it the latter, given that it’s an impenetrable, instantly forgettable tale that rewards only readers of the source material – if anyone.
It’s based on a series of novels by King, who, in juggling genres and influences, offers a magical quest amid post-apocalyptic ruin against a majestic western background.
Clearly, he was inspired by both J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and the spaghetti westerns of director Sergio Leone, including The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.
The premise: Eleven-year-old Jake, played by Tom Taylor, is an adventure seeker who discovers clues about a dimension called Mid-World, during his investigation of which he’s spirited away to that very place.
There he encounters Roland Deschain, a gunslinger, the last of his kind, played by Idris Elba, who is on a quest to reach the tower, which holds the universe together and is located in End-World, at a point in time and space that he hopes will stave off absolute extinction.
Got all that?
Anyway, standing in the gunslinger’s way is Walter O’Dim, a vicious sorcerer also known as the Man in Black, played by Matthew McConaughey, who is out to topple the titular tower.
So we are witness to the battle, as you might have guessed, between good and evil, with nothing less than the whole world at stake.
Danish director Nikolaj Arcel (A Royal Affair, King’s Game, Island of Lost Souls, Truth About Man), working from a screenplay that he co-wrote with Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, and Anders Thomas Jensen based on King’s novels, never even approaches a sense of urgency and completely wastes his charismatic stars.
Elba seems apologetic and McConaughey looks absolutely bored, and we never get the chance to connect with them or anyone else.
From the very beginning, when the ho-hum exposition and mythology starts being dished out, we feel as if we’ve entered several reels in.
And that, unfortunately, is as engaged as we’ll ever be in this end-of-the-world scenario, edited down to within an inch of its life, that lies there like a beached whale.
So we’ll battle 2 stars out of 4 for The Dark Tower, an indifferent fantasy well short of towering that leaves us in the dark.