Anterograde amnesia, best known as the affliction Guy Pearce suffers from in Memento, is defined as a mental disorder that blocks the formation of new memories. Known causes involve blunt-force trauma and The Dark Tower 2017, a movie that is not only forgettable but also combatively memory-proof.
While sitting through this uniquely flavorless slog, a viewer jolts out of a waking sleep every five minutes or so to realize that they have not internalized a thing. Nikolaj Arcel’s attempts to translate and condense Stephen King’s long-running chains of densely mythologized books amount to becoming a western without the mighty of the west, a fantasy without anything even coming close to fantastic.
The Dark Tower movie 2017 vanishes as you toss your soda cup in the garbage on the way out of the theater. The script amalgamates story details from across the seven-installment franchise into one bowl of reheated Joseph Campbell’s soup, a clear goal to become the next Lord of the Rings that can’t back up its sense of portentousness with the needed epic sweep.
The ramshackle plot focuses on the chosen one Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), a lonely and volatile moppet blessed with the nebulously defined power of “the shine,” which allows his subconscious to peer into other worlds. This is how he learns through The Dark Tower, a building that serves as a conduit keeping the vast dimensions of reality in order, and of the ages-old battle for its control between the sinister/completely bland sorcerer called the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) and the terse Gunslinger (Idris Elba).
Both men have futures for young Jake; the Gunslinger sees him as the last hope for peace on Earth, whereas the Man in Black wants to imprison the boy into a large dentist’s chair to use him as energy for a laser that would strike down The Dark Tower. Also in the mix are a malicious plume of sentient red smoke, and a monster that seems to be half-Balrog, half-scorpion – both of which look fleetingly and have no tangible effect on the story.
There is just enough handful moments during which the movie threatens to become marginally captivating; they all pass. Narrative turns quick through The Dark Tower movie without rhyme or reason, betraying the seams of behind-the-scenes meddling that have already claimed headlines in the trade papers. It’s rare that a film so convoluted also manages to be so determinedly boring.
There’s a detail somewhere in the misshapen second act that an attentive audience can feel all the parties included giving up and resolving to get the rest of the film over with the sooner the better. Arcel directs across the path of least resistance, aiming his camera at people as indifferently as he films the half-baked CGI scenes. The chaotic script falls when it lurches out of its first half-hour, fails to deliver such basic foundational elements of storytelling as “stakes” or “character motivation”.
McConaughey seems unamused by his own performance, probably due to he’s imagining the boat he’s going to get after production wraps. What a pity for misused Elba, meanwhile, seems like he’s seeking a way out of the film. We can scarcely blame him.