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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Dark Tower (Blu-ray)
The Dark Tower (Blu-ray)
Sony Pictures // PG-13 // October 31, 2017 // Region A
List Price: $34.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by William Harrison | posted November 18, 2017 | E-mail the Author
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THE FILM:

Click an image to view Blu-ray screenshot with 1080p resolution.

I hoped the casting of Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey was a sign that Nikolaj Arcel's adaptation of Stephen King's novel series was trying to be something more than a scattershot B-movie. Unfortunately, Sony's crowded and confusing The Dark Tower is neither satisfying to fans of King's work nor a good introduction to the material for newcomers. Akiva Goldsman and Ron Howard again prove an underwhelming producing duo, and, despite ample evidence that R-rated thrillers connect with audiences, the filmmakers bring The Dark Tower to the screen as a middling PG-13 actioner. Elba does what he can as "The Gunslinger," the last in a line of warriors protecting the world from a dark evil, embodied in McConaughey's "The Man in Black." Tom Taylor plays Jake Chambers, an eleven-year-old boy capable of saving the universe with his "true shine," something King fans may already be familiar with from "The Shining" and "Doctor Sleep." Despite several stylish action sequences and decent performances from Elba and Chambers, The Dark Tower is a missed opportunity.

This is what happens when you try to compress a voluminous, richly detailed series into one 90-odd-minute origin story. The film opens with Chambers experiencing confusing visions of the Man in Black and a mysterious tower. He is understandably having trouble at school, and his parents seek out psychiatric help, which arrives in the form of two skin-shifting monsters from Chambers' dreams. He escapes their grasp, and discovers a portal into a post-apocalyptic reality called "Mid-World," where he meets the Gunslinger. The man explains he is pursuing the Man in Black to avenge the death of his father and the other gunslingers, and that the Man in Black is using psychic children to try to tear down the Dark Tower at the center of the universe that protects humanity from destruction. All of that is explained in about as much detail as in the previous two sentences, and the first hour of the movie is spent popping across Mid-World, with a stop at a local village to have Chambers' visions interpreted and for the Gunslinger to re-arm.

Arcel, best known for the 2012 film A Royal Affair, assisted with this screenplay, which had a total of four writers. Directors J. J. Abrams and Howard both were set to captain this ship over the last decade, and The Dark Tower was stuck in development hell for years before it rolled out into theaters last summer. It is disappointing that after so much lead-time the movie feels so sterile and disjointed. Perhaps it's a product of Sony Pictures' recent turmoil, but this is a film very much lacking in heart and purpose. It feels like it was made by committee. King's source material could easily have made an excellent film, with a two-hour-plus, R-rated first chapter epic. Instead, we get the sanitized, cable TV version of the story, and Arcel's movie makes little impact.

McConaughey is on a hot streak of late, popping up in numerous A-list films and commercials, but he is wasted here. His Man in Black pops up from time to time, suffers through some very poor CGI effects and has little, if any, interesting lore to promote. Elba fares slightly better, and he at least has some visually interesting action sequences toward the end of the film. Young Taylor does a nice job with what he is given, too, but his is another character that the film barely explores. There have been excellent King adaptations like The Shawshank Redemption and The Shining, and then there are Dreamcatacher and Thinner. The Dark Tower falls somewhere in between, but it didn't have to. Superficial, confusing and undercooked, this is a thoroughly disappointing spin on entertaining material.

THE BLU-RAY:

PICTURE:

Sony's 2.40:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image is expectedly excellent, with ample fine-object detail and abundant texture. Colors are perfectly saturated, blacks are inky and do not waiver, and skin tones are accurate. Other than some minor digital noise, I did not find anything else to detract from the final score. Wide shots are deep and clean, and the action looks good in motion. There is no evidence of digital tinkering.

SOUND:

The Blu-ray offers a strong 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix, with plenty of immersive effects and sound pans. Dialogue is crystal clear, and ambient noise, like traffic and weather, makes use of the surrounds. Action sequences play across the entire sound field, and the track's range is notable. Quiet, dialogue-driven scenes are no less impressive than the bigger, louder moments. The soundtrack is layered appropriately, too. Portuguese, Czech, French, Hungarian, Polish, Spanish, Thai and Turkish 5.1 dubs are included, as are a ton of subtitle options.

PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:

This single-disc release also includes an UltraViolet HD digital copy. The Elite Blu-ray case is wrapped in a slipcover. Extras include a Blooper Reel (2:50/HD); Deleted Scenes (6:22/HD); Last Time Around (9:14/HD), about the origins of the project; Stephen King: Inspirations (4:25/HD), a brief piece about the author's work; The Gunslinger in Action (8:29/HD), about Elba's performance; The Man in Black (8:22/HD), about the villain; The World Has Moved On (7:02/HD), which focuses on the Mid-World setting; A Look Through the Keyhole (3:35/HD), which are story readings over film clips; and bonus previews.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

This truncated, superficial adaptation of Stephen King's series squanders a talented cast with a stop-start narrative that neither satisfies fans nor appropriately introduces newcomers to the material. The plot is confusing and scattershot, and this PG-13 actioner makes little impact. Rent It if you are curious.


Additional screenshots:

William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.

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