Based on the best-selling book series by highly-acclaimed author Stephen King. The last Gunslinger, Roland (Idris Elba), has been locked in an eternal battle with the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey), determined to prevent him from toppling the Dark Tower, which holds the universe together. With the fate of the worlds at stake, good and evil will collide in the epic battle as only Roland can defend the Tower from the Man in Black.
Stephen King's magnum opus, The Dark Tower, was finally released on the big screen after years of fan anticipation. It's just sad to see the final result, which effectively proves how difficult this property is (has been) to develop. After filmmakers like J.J. Abrams and Ron Howard came and went, producer Akiva Goldsman teamed with director Nikolaj Arcel, who had most recently helmed A Royal Affair, to produce the movie for Sony. Yet, what follows is a heavy-handed 95-minute film that feels devoid of any real creative content. Sure, the visuals look good, but The Dark Tower lacks ambition or any real sense of story or resemblance to King's eight-novel, genre-defying series.
This film version follows an eleven-year-old boy named Jake Chambers, who has premonitions and nightmares of a mysterious Man in Black (McConaughey), who is looking to take over the world and destroy it with a bunch of evil monsters that are disguised in human skin. Turns out our universe is held together and protected by a large Dark Tower. The Man in Black hopes to tear down the Tower by kidnapping kids, like Jake, who have the supernatural ability to "shine" (ala Danny Torrance in The Shining).
Luckily, Jake crosses paths with The Gunslinger (Idris Elba), who is part of a long lineage of warriors that keep the Dark Tower safe. The two form a bond as they trek through portals and seek out to defeat the Man in Black and his minions.
Where King's novels are dark, suspenseful, full of character development, and told from The Gunslinger's POV, this PG-13 adaptation focuses on Jake, who must learn the truth about the universe, how to handle a big gun, and face down pure evil in the span of 95-minutes. The Gunslinger, the character we've been waiting years to see on screen, is put on the backburner.
The result feels lifeless and choppy and uninspired with no real sense of background or care for what comes next. Much of this, I believe, comes from the rushed running time. At 95 minutes, characters and set-pieces are given no time to breathe and connect with the audience. Worse, this is not a cohesive story.
Honestly, The Dark Tower is an extraordinarily challenging universe to adapt and I'm sure everyone tried their hardest, but this movie feels like a slap in the face to every fan and King himself. Like a bad LifeTime movie. Even the acting feels off; despite a good performance from Idris Elba, McConaughey's evil Man in Black character has no direction and is on the verge of silly, rather than anything resembling something terrifying.
If there is one highlight amidst the mess, you might have fun clocking all the Easter Eggs and references to other Stephen King books and films. Some are subtle and others are too on the nose, as if the actors are wanting to look at the camera and ask if you saw it.
Ultimately, The Dark Tower had many worlds of potential, but this one forgot the face of its father.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
The Dark Tower comes with a dual-layered UHD66 Disc and a Region A locked Blu-ray Disc. There is an insert for a Digital HD copy and promos for 4K UHD Discs. The discs are housed in an eco-friendly, hard, black plastic case with a cardboard sleeve too.
The Dark Tower comes with both HDR10 and Dolby Vision options. The film was shot digitally at 3.4.K and 6.5K and then transferred to 4K for this home video release. When comparing the standard Blu-ray version to the 4K UHD Disc, there is most certainly an upgrade in detail and color, even more so in Dolby Vision. The Dark Tower is indeed a dark movie in its tone and visuals. There are flashes of bright colors, mostly used in the big city, but elsewhere, it has a rather decaying look to it. The Dolby Vision enhances these darker colors and low lit scenes very well.
Matthew McConaughey's outfit is all black and is always deep and distinguished in all lighting conditions. It contrasts well to the Gunslinger's rustic black leather outfit, giving these different shades of black a ton of depth. Brighter colors such as the orange and red gun blasts, explosions, and electric light in the sky are bold and all have a great shine to them. Other primary colors creep into frame during the city scenes and some greenery in the plant life, which are all well saturated. The detail is very sharp and vivid during every scene, including the heavier action moments and very low lit scenes.
The embers and sparks from each gun blast and supernatural essence look incredible. The Gunslinger's very worn long coat shows every scuff mark, piece of dirt, and crease as well. Close-ups reveal mortal wounds, facial hairs, pores, and wrinkles very well here, and maybe to a fault (like McConaughey's thick, orange makeup). Wider shots of rock formations and mountains all show off their imperfections and beauty without ever going soft.
Some heavy CGI fight sequences reveal flaws in the VFX work, looking super silly and unrealistic, but they're never murky. Again the black levels were deep and inky and the skin tones are natural (besides McConaughey's makeup). There were no major issues with any banding or aliasing either, leaving this Dolby Vision video presentation looking great.
This release comes with a Dolby Atmos mix, which is all sorts of fun and adds height speaker elements from time to time. Sound effects are very loud and robust when it comes to the gun blasts; each fired shot is immersive and has solid dynamics that account for the blast itself, flying bullet f, the debris, and impact. It's quite spectacular. With the Dolby Atmos, the sound is more fluid as bullets fly overhead and hit their targets from speaker to speaker. Every explosion and gunshot packs a good low end with rattling bass.
Other ambient noises, such as passing cars, people talking in the background, screams, and other supernatural noises all pack a good punch. The height elements really come into play during the heavier action scenes where there are multiple gunshots, punches, and creature sounds. The score is forgettable, but adds a layer of suspense to each scene, while the dialogue is always clear and easy to follow, free of any pops, cracks, hiss, and shrills.
The Dark Tower should've rich with character, action, scares, and emotion. Sadly, none of these things are evident in this film adaptation of Stephen King's masterpiece. While Idris Elba tuns in a good performance, he is gravely underused and, instead, we follow an annoying kid around. Nothing works with this film. On the other hand, the Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos Track is quite good. The extras are interesting enough, but nothing special. I'd leave this release as a rental, because I doubt anyone would want to watch this more than once.