The Dark Tower
- Street Date:
- October 31st, 2017
- Reviewed by:
- Bryan Kluger
- Review Date: 1
- November 3rd, 2017
- Movie Release Year:
- 95 Minutes
- MPAA Rating:
- Release Country
- United States
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of the 4K UHD release, also written by Bryan Kluger. Specifically, this review features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, Audio and Final Thoughts sections while both reviews share The Movie Itself and Special Features.
For a full in-depth review of the 4K UHD HERE.
The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
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 Blu-ray
The Dark Tower comes with a 50GB Blu-ray Disc that is Region A Locked. There is an insert for a digital download included too. The Disc is housed in a hard, blue plastic case with a cardboard sleeve.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
The Dark Tower comes with a 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The image looks solid in all of its dark sequences, but can get a bit soft during the heavier CGI moments. Colors are surprisingly bold in all darkly lit scenes. When fires burn and gun blasts shoot of sparks and embers, those orange, red, and yellows certainly stand out very well and just light up the screen. Besides the scenes in the city and at Jake's apartment, most of the film has a subdued color palette that is earthy in tone with browns, greens, and pale blue skies.
Black levels are where you'll want to pay attention to as both the gunslinger and the man in black are dressed in black. This 1080p HD master distinguishes Elba's leather black coat to McConaughey's black pants and black button down shirt, but there was some slight evidence of crush here, especially when they are both in low-lit conditions. Most of the time though, the black levels are deep and inky.
The detail is sharp and vivid throughout with great close-ups that reveal facial pores, wrinkles, and ridiculous makeup applications on McConaughey's face. The war-torn leather coat that the gunslinger wears also shows all of its imperfections too. Wider shots never go soft, but in the heavy CGI fight scenes, the image can get a little murky. Skin tones are natural other than McConaughey's face, but there were no other issues here.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix. There is no Dolby Atmos option on the Blu-ray version, which is just downright ridiculous. I hope Sony returns to including Dolby Atmos on their Blu-rays in the future. Still, the DTS-HD 5.1 mix sounds very good. It's just not as dynamic as the 4K UHD Atmos sound. Sound effects are still fairly loud and layered with every gunshot and explosion packing a good thunderous punch that has very good directionality.
You'll hear a ton of gunshots and yells from the rear speakers, which is always good. There's just not the height element or the smooth transition from speaker to speaker as bullets zoom by. Other ambient noises sound full as well, whether it be supernatural elements in the distance or people talking. The score always adds to the tension of the moment, but it largely forgettable. The bass kicks in during the heavier action sequences and never crosses into rocky territory either. Lastly, the dialogue was always clear and easy to understand, even in the quieter moments, and free of any pops, cracks, hiss, and shrills.
The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff
Blooper Reel (HD, 3 Mins.) - A short montage of flubbed lines, missed cues, laughter, and fun on set.
The Gunslinger in Action (HD, 9 Mins.) - The cast and crew talk about the stunt-work in the movie, as well as the origins of the gunslinger. There is some decent on set footage of the stunts here too.
The Man in Black (HD, 9 Mins.) - The cast and crew, including McConaughey and Elba talk about the villain of the film and his motivations, themes, and development.
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
Deleted Scenes ( HD, 7 Mins.) - There are four deleted scenes here, all of which are excellent and I can't believe they were left out of the movie. I just don't get it.
Last Time Around (HD, 9 Mins.) - Interview with some of the crew, cast and Stephen King are here. King cites Lord of the Rings and The Good The Bad The Ugly as starting points for the story. Discussions on how the story took shape and the themes of the film take place here too.
Stephen King Inspirations (HD, 5 Mins.) - Stephen King talks about how he came up with the story for the books in detail.
The World Has Moved On (HD, 7 Mins.) - More interviews with the cast and crew that focus on the set design, props, location shooting, and key artwork brought to life to give the film it's post-apocalyptic look.
A Look Through The Keyhole (HD, 4 Mins.) - This is a useless extra that plays out in three segments where the actors read key passages from the book with the visuals of the movie on screen. That's it.
The Dark Tower should have been a monumental film with tons of depth, story, and character development. That's sadly not the case. This was a lazy, rushed, and commercialized version of a great story with no emotion or fun. It had so much potential to be something so much more. The video presentation looks look enough, but the exclusion of the Dolby Atmos track is unfortunate. The extras deliver some decent information for the most part, but overall, I think this is best left to a rental if you haven't seen.
- 50GB Blu-ray Disc + Digital Copy
- 1080p MPEG-4 AVC
- English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- Portuguese: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- French: Dolby Digital 5.1
- Hungarian: Dolby Digital 5.1
- Polish: Dolby Digital 5.1
- Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1
- Thai: Dolby Digital 5.1
- Turkish: Dolby Digital 5.1
- English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Arabic, Bulgarian, Cantonese, Croatian, Czech, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Malay, Mandarin, Polish, Romanian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Thai, Turkish, Vietnamese
- "The Man in Black”
- “The Gunslinger in Action”
Exclusive HD Content
- Deleted Scenes
- A Look Through the Keyhole
- "Last Time Around"
- "The World Has Moved On…”
- "Stephen King Inspirations"
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