THR highlights who Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey play, why the adaptation took so long and whether this is the beginning of a franchise.
The long-awaited adaptation of Stephen King’s sci-fi opus stars Idris Elba as Roland, a wandering gunslinger who is the last hope of the fallen land. He is charged with keeping the eponymous Tower safe while battling his sorcerer nemesis — the Man in Black, played by Matthew McConaughey. Tom Taylor, Claudia Kim, Fran Kranz, Abbey Lee Kershaw, Jackie Earle Haley are also among the cast of the fantasy film, directed by Nikolaj Arcel.
The world of The Dark Tower is a multiverse, and what happens to the Tower largely affects our planet (known here as "Keystone Earth") as well as unknown number of parallel worlds. Throughout the books, Idris' Roland cyclically protects the Tower, and the film is seen as another attempt to do so. The audience enters the onscreen story alongside Jake, a teen played by Taylor who sees components of the other side in his consistent nightmares, and learns to travel between them through mysterious portals.
Though mostly drawn from the first novel The Gunslinger, the film from Sony and MRC is actually written as a sequel to the eight-book series, so not even the most devout readers know the entire plot. “There are millions of fans who are disciples of these books and obsessed with these novels — I think and hope we did them service by giving them the essence of what Stephen King put on the page,” McConaughey told The Hollywood Reporter at the film’s special screening on Monday. “The true fans are gonna see we left a lot of nuggets in there for them. … And at the same time, it lives on its own, even if you never read a page.”
Spanning 94 minutes, The Dark Tower adaptation has been in the making for eight years, bouncing from studio to studio, with Ron Howard and Javier Bardem attached at various points. It is supposed to launch an ambitious multiplatform franchise, complete with a potential big-screen sequel as well as a TV series. The show is more of an origin story about a younger Roland, and is based on the series’ fourth book, Wizard in Glass. Glen Mazzara, previously of The Walking Dead, has been tapped as its showrunner, with Elba and Taylor slated to appear. Though a network is not yet attached, production is eyed to begin in 2018.
The movie was met with a collective shrug emoji from reviewers. THR's critic called it "decent but uninspiring" and "far from the muddled train wreck we've been led to expect. … Though satisfying enough to please many casual moviegoers drawn in by King's name and stars Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey, it will likely disappoint many serious fans and leave other newbies underwhelmed.”
Elsewhere, The Guardian noted, “It’s rare a film so convoluted manages to be so determinedly boring. Lucky for you, it vanishes from the mind as soon as it ends.” Still, it wasn't all forgettable, as USA Today said Elba's gunslinger "oozes a winning sense of stoic gravitas."
Nevertheless, The Dark Tower shouldn't have trouble topping the North American box-office in its opening weekend, even if its debut is relatively modest. The $60 million movie is projected to gross in the low $20 million range. It will begin playing in 2,750 theaters on Thursday evening before expanding to a total of 3,449 locations on Friday.
Also opening this weekend is Halle Berry’s action-thriller Kidnap, plus the wide expansion of Kathryn Bigelow's true-life drama Detroit. The crime drama Wind River, starring Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen, and Fox Searchlight’s dance documentary Step also open in limited theaters.