If you're a die-hard Stephen King fan, you'll probably be disappointed by The Dark Tower.
I used to be Stephen King's number one fan. As a teenager I used to read every book he wrote, including the Richard Bachmann novels. And every time one of his books was turned into a movie or mini series, I was counting the days until its release. Some screen adaptions were better than others, but I loved them all, simply because Stephen King could do no wrong in my eyes.
But over the years, it felt like his material was getting weaker and weaker. Maybe it was the law of diminishing returns, or maybe it was my own personal taste changing over time. I don't know. But at some point it felt like he could slap his name on a copy of the phone book, and it would automatically become a bestseller, regardless of whether it was actually a good book or not.
To me Stephen King lost his magic with Kingdom Hospital. When I saw that talking ant eater, I felt like King had jumped the shark. He was no longer a genius author, and just another Hollywood sell-out who will slap his name on any piece of crap for a quick buck.
I still like King's older books, but I have to admit I don't have a lot of desire to read his new material. I enjoyed the movie adaption of The Mist, and I like the TV adaption as well. I loved the book IT, and devoured the mini series years ago. The new IT movie looks pretty good too.
Having said all that, The Dark Tower isn't a terrible movie. It's typical Hollywood fare that follows Joseph Campbell's basic recipe for a hero's journey. Whether you watch Star Wars, The Matrix, Harry Potter, or The Neverending Story, it always plays out along the basic principles of a cookie cutter Hollywood mythology: there's a young protagonist who lives in the boring real world. Then he suddenly discovers a hidden reality, full of magic and wonder. He finds an older mentor, who usually dies at some point. And by the time the hero completes his journey, he is as much part of the new world as he is part of his old world.
The Dark Tower follows the same old recipe. That doesn't make it a bad movie if you judge it strictly on its own merits. It has its moments. There's plenty of action (that sometimes feels a bit random) and some comic relief.
But if you're a fan of Stephen King's novels and you actually read The Dark Tower series, you'll barely recognize this movie as an adaption of the source material. The movie feels a bit like a "Best of" highlight reel of the novels. Different bits of different books are all jumbled together into a typical Hollywood cookie-cutter flick. Some parts of it feel like you're watching The Neverending Story, some parts will remind you of Chronicles of Narnia, some parts feel like they were lifted from E.T., and so on and so forth. To be fair, King did find inspiration in a lot of different places, so it shouldn't surprise anyone when things in this movie feel like you've seen something similar before somewhere else. But the whole movie feels pretty shallow. There's not much depth to anything that's happening on screen. It's just another fantasy action flick. It doesn't do a very good job capturing the rich tapestry King wove when he created this world in his books.
Score: 6 out of 10