MOVIE BUFF-ET: Lukewarm ‘The Dark Tower’ boasts solid performances but misses mark

Columbia Pictures

Director Nikolaj Arcel’s latest film “The Dark Tower” reminds me of a passage from the book of “Revelation.” The movie is neither hot nor cold, so audiences are likely to spit it out.

For decades Hollywood has longed to adapt Stephen King’s beloved Dark Tower series of novels, but the film industry never could find the right production team to put the a movie version together until this venture.

Fans of the novels will probably argue that Columbia Pictures failed, while the general public won’t care.

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The movie isn’t the disaster that rumors purported, but in a world where films rooted in sci-fi and fantasy adventures rule the box office, the movie is bland.

King’s eight-book series is somewhat of an ode to J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns. King mashed up themes from science fiction, horror, fantasy, and Westerns to craft a compelling series of novels that have become influential in their own right.

The film is set in a multiverse of parallel worlds defended by the last of a group of cowboy/knights Roland, (Idris Elba), The Gunslinger. His pistol is forged from the legendary sword Excalibur.

Roland is at odds with the sorcerer Walter (Mathew McConaughey), The Man in Black, who has plunged reality onto the edge of destruction. Walter assaults The Dark Tower, the epicenter of goodness in the multiverse, with the psychic energy of gifted youngsters from throughout the multiverse, whom Walter kidnaps and enslaves as a power source.

If The Dark Tower falls, it’s doom, despair, and destruction.

Walter has defeated all the gunslingers except for Roland, who is somehow immune to Walter’s powers. When we find Roland in the film, he’s done with defending the multiverse, but he does want to kill Walter.

The hero of the movie is the psychically gifted Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), who lives on a parallel world similar to our own. Jake is channeling visions from the other parallel worlds, which leads his parents to believe he is mentally ill. Jake is powerful enough not only to push Walter’s plans of destruction over the top but also to challenge him.

Taylor’s not bad in the role, but McConaughey and Elba overmatch him with high-level performances that almost save the movie. McConaughey’s evil nonchalance is striking and scary, while Elba perfectly portrays the weary Western knight, who is inspired to return to the quest, perhaps, for a final time.

With just a $60 million production budget and a 95-minute running time, one could argue Arcel did not have the resources to properly adapt the material. However, Hollywood has a history of condensing literary works into entertaining productions even if the movie only contained the mere essence of the original.

The problem with “The Dark Tower” isn’t so much what is left out from the books, or really what was left in. The issue is that Arcel’s tepid and unimaginative direction left me not caring one way or the other.

(PG-13) 1 hr. 30 min.
Grade: C-

Classic Corner

The Lion King (This week at AMC Fiesta Square)
(G) 1 hr. 29 min.

Let’s face it, 2017 hasn’t been a great summer for animated fare in theaters.

“Despicable Me 3” was only O.K., and while “Captain Underpants” offered a few chuckles, the movie came and went with very little fanfare.

Anything I’d have to say about the “The Emoji Movie” is best left unsaid, and the movie is definitely better left unseen.

So as the summer movie season begins to fade and with a new school year barreling toward us, is there anything animated worth taking the kids to see in local theaters?

The answer is absolutely, and the film is a bona fide classic.

Disney’s “The Lion King” is showing at the newly redesigned AMC Fiesta Square Theater this week, and the movie is every bit as good as you might remember it being.

The story of “Mufasa’s boy” Simba and his struggle to regain his rightful thrown from his evil uncle Scar is certainly familiar to anyone who loves animation or grew up in the 1990s.

No doubt many of you can still sing most if not all of the lyrics to the wonderful songs by Tim Rice and Elton John, including the Academy Award winner “Can You Fell the Love Tonight.”

Many of you may own the film on DVD or Blu Ray. If you happen to have a dusty, old VHS copy, you might blow it off and list it on eBay. For whatever reason, some Disney films on VHS can fetch a pretty penny from collectors.

So, if the movie is a familiar as the back of our own paw, why go see it again at the theater?

That’s a good question. Certainly, going to the theater to see a film that is readily available at home isn’t the most practical choice.

However, there is something magical about seeing a film on the big screen, and experiencing the laughs, smiles, concern, and sorrow it evokes from kids seeing that lush, hand-drawn animation lavished across a large screen.

It might just take you on a nostalgic trip back to the time and place when you first laughed at the antics of Timon and Pumbaa or shuddered at Scar and his hungry band of hyenas.

The story draws upon Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” and the exploits of Joseph and Moses from the Bible as inspiration and is as enchanting to kids today as it was to those who saw it when it originally opened in 1994.