Cast: Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Abbey Lee, Jackie Earle Haley, and Nicholas Hamilton
Director: Nikolaj Arcel
95 minutes (12) 2017
Widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Sony blu-ray region B
Review by Steven Hampton
Noah Hawley’s new TV series Legion might have cornered the market in surrealistic sci-fi about superheroes with psychodrama, but this genre movie, about the parallel universes of Keystone Earth and Mid-World, neatly - if not always deftly - explores the dreams of a quasi-mythical apocalypse that trouble fatherless young psychic hero Jake (Tom Taylor). Driven by his grim visions to run away from home in New York, Jake discovers a portal to the weird western realm where a battle of ages - a war between haunted gunslinger Roland (Idris Elba), and a magic man-in-black Walter (Matthew McConaughey), threatens both worlds, sacrifices family ties, and risks the boy’s own sanity.
After a decade in development hell, derived from Stephen King’s book series, The Dark Tower owes much to C.S. Lewis’ Narnia, and L. Frank Baum’s Oz, with apparent designs on the young adult market, and cross-genre appeal that, narrative wise and cinematically, borrows from The Matrix’s chosen oneness and a swaggering cowboy styling that evokes Sergio Leone’s spaghetti shoot ’em ups and John Woo’s bullet ballet actioners. The inter-dimensional quest, which forms like mental etchings from Jake’s dreams of doom, builds up a new screen brand of synthetic but compelling character-based mythology, notable for the diversity of its influences, that includes folklore, comic books, and genre movies, and also embracing aspects or motifs from King's own oeuvre.
The iconic gunslinger is a Jedi-like knight, but with pistols forged, reportedly, from the legendary Excalibur’s metal. The strange time-warped west world has dead technology reminiscent of Mad Max’s wastelands. Like the twin towers of Lord Of The Rings, this movie’s central image riffs on Norse mythology’s Yggdrasil, and, as previously seen in Thor movies, with their convergence of ‘heims. Tellingly, the brand of this franchise project delivers character actions that speak louder than words, and so its spectacular climax of fantastical mayhem, and spells, overwhelms more routine exposition.