The Dark Tower reviews are in and the critical consensus can charitably be summed up with one word: meh.
Stephen King’s eight-book magnum opus has long been earmarked for a film adaptation with development stretching back decades. It took a while, and there were reported problems during production, but Sony and Danish director Nikolaj Arcel finally brought King’s mystery-packed multi-verse mythology to the big screen, and sadly, it was met with a collective shrug emoji from reviewers.
THR‘s John DeFore quick take on Tower was that it was “decent but uninspiring” and that it was “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,” added DeFore.
The Guardian‘s Charles Bramesco was similarly left wondering what the point was, writing: “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.” Bramesco felt that all the talent involved didn’t really disgrace themselves but really didn’t stand out either. “There’s a point somewhere in the misshapen second act that an attentive viewer can feel all the parties involved giving up and resolving to get the rest of the movie over with as soon as possible.”
“While most high-profile franchise starters try to do too much their first time out, this thing’s guilty of too little ambition,” wrote Brian Truitt in USA Today. Truitt focused on the admirable levels of mediocrity despite A-list talents like Elba, McConaughey as well as King’s wildly popular source material. Still, it wasn’t all forgettable, as Elba’s performance as Roland Deschain won the biggest praise from Truitt, who said his gunslinger “oozes a winning sense of stoic gravitas.”
IGN reviewer Marty Sliva‘s verdict was to the point, describing Tower as “a thoroughly average take on some truly incredible source material.” Sliva added: “For a story where the literal fate of the universe is at stake, it’s disappointingly easy to not really care about anything that’s happening onscreen.”
Kate Erbland writing in Indiewire saw the film as a failure and pondered whether it was possible, or even advisable, to adapt Tower for the big screen given the 4,000 pages from the novels alone. Erbland felt fans would dislike the film and “even newbies will likely be left in the dust as Jake and Roland bounce through locations and plot movements with jarring irregularity, as they’re forced to judge for themselves just how important each person and place really is to the larger story.”
Uproxx‘s Mike Ryan didn’t hold back, writing a blistering review that opens by describing Tower as “so astoundingly awful that when you leave the theater you’ll likely be less mad you wasted your time than flabbergasted that something like this could a) happen and b) be released as something that, theoretically, is going to launch a multi-platform franchise.”