In­ter­ga­lac­tic war of good and evil a te­dious af­fair

The Hamilton Spectator - - A & E - RICHARD ROEPER Chicago Sun-Times

The magic man’s face is so buffed and shiny, it looks as if a Bo­tox truck hit him.

His hair looks to be of a colour not found in na­ture. It is so im­mov­able the Jersey Boys would look to him for styling tips.

Mov­ing about with flair and show­man­ship, he fills the air with cocky ban­ter as he per­forms amaz­ing feats.

He catches bul­lets in his bare hands! He can put mere mor­tals to sleep with a sim­ple turn of phrase! He gazes into his magic crys­tal ball and can see all! And wait: Is that FIRE danc­ing from his hand? It is!

If you caught this guy’s act in a sec­ond-tier casino in Ve­gas be­cause David Cop­per­field’s show was sold out, you might en­joy the per­for­mance.

Prob­lem is, the sor­cerer I’ve de­scribed here is Matthew McConaughey’s Man in Black, a.k.a. Wal­ter O’Dim, a.k.a. the most evil and ter­ri­fy­ing en­tity in the galaxy. As the devil in­car­nate in “The Dark Tower,” he’s sup­posed to send chills down your spine and give you night­mares, but he’s noth­ing but a preen­ing, one-di­men­sional goof.

I’m more fright­ened by the car com­mer­cial ver­sion of McConaughey who tells his dogs they’re not go­ing for sushi again.

A great ac­tor giv­ing a ter­ri­ble per­for­mance as the lead vil­lain is but one of the many, many, MANY un­for­tu­nate el­e­ments in “The Dark Tower,” which is in­spired by the Stephen King book se­ries but comes across as more of a trib­ute to big-bud­get but poorly made sci-fi thrillers from the 1980s.

The cin­e­matog­ra­phy has a washed-out, dull tone. The spe­cial ef­fects are medi­ocre. With a few ex­cep­tions, the di­a­logue is stilted and filled with ex­pos­i­tory pas­sages so ob­vi­ously in­tended to ex­plain things to us, I half­ex­pected char­ac­ters to turn to the cam­era and say, “Here’s what you need to know so you can un­der­stand what’s hap­pen­ing.”

Tom Tay­lor plays Jake Cham­bers, an 11year-old boy plagued by in­tensely re­al­is­tic night­mares fea­tur­ing the afore­men­tioned Man in Black, a Gun­slinger on a mis­sion to track down and kill the MIB, and a mys­te­ri­ous tower of epic pro­por­tions. Jake’s note­books and his bed­room walls are filled with draw­ings taken di­rectly from th­ese dreams.

Through a se­ries of events with more than a pass­ing sim­i­lar­ity to cer­tain cir­cum­stances in the first “Ter­mi­na­tor” movie (with a gen­er­ous help­ing of the “Men in Black” movies on the side), we learn Jake isn’t crazy, and in fact his dreams are ac­cu­rate vi­sions of an in­ter­ga­lac­tic war tak­ing place far be­yond Earth (or Key­stone Earth, as it is known in those oth­er­worldly cir­cles).

Jake finds a por­tal in Brook­lyn and is sucked into the strange and for­bid­ding MidWorld, with its vast moun­tains and deep, dark forests.

(Ref­er­ences to Stephen King works in­clud­ing “It” and “1408” pop up from time to time in this movie. Th­ese types of Easter eggs can be fun, but in this case add prac­ti­cally noth­ing to the story at hand.)

In quick fash­ion, Jake stum­bles upon the Gun­slinger (Idris Elba) from his dreams. Af­ter the oblig­a­tory, gruff “go home kid” stuff from the Gun­slinger, they join forces in the hopes of find­ing the elusive Wal­ter O’Dim.

So it turns out the Dark Tower is a real thing. It is the one and only bar­ri­cade pro­tect­ing the in­hab­i­tants of all the plan­ets (in­clud­ing Key­stone Earth) from the un­re­lent­ing forces of evil lurk­ing on the other side.

For eons, Wal­ter O’Dim has been launch­ing at­tacks on the Dark Tower. He wants to de­stroy the tower and be­come the ruler of a mon­strous, hellish world. (Doesn’t sound like much fun, but at least Wal­ter has goals.)

But get this! The only weapon that can do dam­age to the Dark Tower is the psy­chic

power of an ex­cep­tional child. Th­ese kids are said to have a “shine” — some­thing mirac­u­lous in their mind that gives them supernatural abil­i­ties. Wal­ter and his army of mon­sters have been sys­tem­at­i­cally kid­nap­ping chil­dren, tor­tur­ing them and us­ing their psy­ches as mis­siles to take down the tower. I’m not kid­ding. Our boy Jake has the great­est shine of them all, so even as Jake and the Gun­slinger pur­sue Wal­ter, it’s Wal­ter who is set­ting the trap on Key­stone Earth to lure them into his web. (Ba­ha­ha­haha!) If Wal­ter can har­ness Jake’s shine, he can de­stroy the Dark Tower once and for all!

Soon we’re plunged back into the te­dious tug-of-war be­tween the smirk­ing Wal­ter and the no­ble but be­lea­guered Gun­slinger, with lit­tle Jake try­ing to learn how to use his pow­ers while cop­ing with tragic per­sonal loss.

Per­haps some­one, some­day, will have an­other go at “The Dark Tower,” and it will be a chill­ing and pro­found sci-fi Spaghetti Western, with mean­ing­ful King Arthur mythol­ogy and en­dur­ing char­ac­ters.

The door is wide open. It won’t take much to make us for­get this ver­sion.


Idris Elba, left, and Matthew McConaughey face off in "The Dark Tower."

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