Dimension-hopping fantasy ‘The Dark Tower’ is hardly fit for a King – Los Angeles Times

In “The Dark Tower,” Matthew McConaughey plays a figure known as the Man in Black, who turns out to be not a famed country-western singer but an extremely evil sorcerer. Sporting a dark coat, an open-necked shirt and an air of louche post-McConnaissance decadence, the Man in Black stalks through the movie like a Vegas lounge lizard, ordering the people around him to do things like “burn,” “stop breathing” and “kill each other.” They almost always comply.

The one guy who doesn’t is Roland Deschain (Idris Elba, looking faintly bored), the last living descendant of an ancient lineage of pistol-packing warriors known as Gunslingers. Mysteriously immune to what the Man in Black calls his “magics,” Roland is the only warrior who can stop this stylish archvillain from destroying the fabled Dark Tower and unleashing chaos across the multiverse.

Weirdly enough, after emerging from the thoroughly magics-free experience that is “The Dark Tower,” I found myself thinking the multiverse could actually use a bit more chaos, which is certainly saying something these days. Whatever its problems, its trim, 95-minute tale of dimension-hopping warriors is hardly the impenetrable, undisciplined mess we might have expected after industry reports of disastrous test screenings and last-minute reshoots. In its current state, “The Dark Tower” doesn’t seem to have been conceived with any of the ambition and grandeur needed to qualify as a catastrophe of that magnitude. From start to finish, the movie exudes a stiff, joyless coherence.

This is as fine a place as any to announce that I haven’t read a word of Stephen King’s massive, multi-threaded “Dark Tower” fantasy-novel octalogy, though I doubt even a thoroughgoing familiarity with the material would make a difference. In feeding that bestselling property through the dull-edged cheese grater of Hollywood franchise cinema, the Danish writer-director Nikolaj Arcel (“A Royal Affair”) and his fellow screenwriters have followed through with their stated intent to deliver not a straightforward adaptation, but rather a riffy, stand-alone sequel of sorts. (A parallel “Dark Tower” television series featuring many of the same actors, including Elba, is presently in the works.)

Dimension-hopping fantasy ‘The Dark Tower’ is hardly fit for a King – Los Angeles Times