Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey can't save 'The Dark Tower'

“The Dark Tower” is simply dim.

Reduced to a single movie, Stephen King’s multi-volume magnum opus is dark, all right — but in a bad way. The cinematography is murky. Motivations are shadowy.

And a good reason to watch? That’s even harder to see.

Rather than faithfully adapt one of the stories in the long-running series, “The Dark Tower” is content to rehash, rewrite and reboot, borrowing details from some books and inventing others.

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The basic situation is the same. In a post-apocalyptic world, there is the Man in Black, a sorcerer who wants to bring on a demonic apocalypse. There is also a Gunslinger who wants to stop him.

Idris Elba's commanding presence as the Gunslinger is one of the few bright things of "The Dark Tower."

Idris Elba’s commanding presence as the Gunslinger is one of the few bright things of “The Dark Tower.”

(Ilze Kitshoff / Columbia Pictures)

And, suddenly interrupting their duel, is a dimension-travelling, middle-school boy named Jake, a traveler from Earth with a powerful psychic gift.

Fans of the literary franchise loved King’s wild mix of genres — cowboys and wizards, sci-fi and fantasy. But chopped up and crammed into a single, short movie, it’s a confusing and cheesy casserole.

Is the Gunslinger’s home planet really a different world, or just a different Earth? And why does the Man in Black want so badly to destroy it? What exactly does he get out of it? Salvage rights?

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There are a couple of cool, if completely unexplained touches — like the way the faces of the Man in Black’s helpers have a habit of falling off. Suddenly we’re in one of those reality shows about bad plastic surgery.

Roland (Idris Elba) and Walter (Matthew McConaughey) face off in the confusing and cheesy adaptation of "The Dark Tower."

Roland (Idris Elba) and Walter (Matthew McConaughey) face off in the confusing and cheesy adaptation of “The Dark Tower.”

(Ilze Kitshoff / Columbia Pictures)

But what should be major set pieces — the hellish scene at the Dixie Pig club, the brain-draining machine that sucks children dry — are more awful than awesome. When a gargantuan demon arrives, he’s nothing but CGI smoke and fire.

The novels were about characters wandering across a barren landscape. The movie is about actors lost in an empty movie.

Idris Elba, who commands any scene just by entering it, makes a fine, forceful figure as the quick-draw hero. But Matthew McConaughey is a well-glazed country ham as the oily and over-the-top villain. And Tom Taylor never convinces as the mind-reading little boy — if he were really psychic, wouldn’t he know how awful this movie was going to be?

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Sorry, but get out the wrecking ball — this “Dark Tower” is condemned.

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the dark tower
idris elba
matthew mcconaughey
stephen king
movie reviews

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