Review Date: 8/13/17
Cast: Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor, Katheryn Winnick, Claudia Kim, Abbey Lee, Dennis Haysbert
Having not read Stephen King's original works, I can't comment on how good the movie adaptation is. What I will say is that you can't take eight novels and distill them into a 90-minute movie without throwing away A LOT of details, so King fans need to set their expectations accordingly for seeing what's essentially a condensed highlights reel.
Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) is a young boy with psychic powers who has visions of another world where a sinister man in black (Matthew McConaughey) is trying to destroy an ominous dark tower. One of his visions leads him to a creepy condemned house where he finds a portal to the other world, and there he meets up with a lone gunslinger named Roland (Idris Elba). Roland is consumed by his desire to kill the man in black, while the man in black is obsessed with finding Jake, who he believes holds the key to destroying the Dark Tower. Roland and the man in black fight it out in New York City, while Jake desperately tries to keep the Dark Tower from falling.
Overall, it's an enjoyable science fiction action romp that knows its boundaries and limitations. Tom Taylor does an excellent job as the smart and resourceful Jake, and he gives an emotionally compelling performance. I applaud the film for presenting him as a strong, serious, and relatable character, and not treating him as a kid. The gruff and sexy Idris Elba makes a superb anti-hero, whose conscience is weighed down by guilt and rage. He's a powerful and intimidating larger-than-life character who strikes a lot of very cool poses. Matthew McConaughey's man in black is a heartless and appropriately menacing villain who delights in others' pain. While the film is definitely male-centric, there are a handful of female characters who stand out and make a favorable impression. Claudia Kim is an exceptionally beautiful psychic seer, while fashion model Abbey Lee is a shockingly sexy evil minion of the man in black. Katheryn Winnick makes the biggest impression as Jake's emotionally exasperated mother, and her heartfelt performance is fantastic. She's also stunningly pretty and has incredible hair.
Production wise, the film looks great and has a wonderfully moody soundtrack. The action scenes are fun and frantic, but unfortunately all of the best scenes are shown in the trailer, which spoils the film's impact. The visual effects are competent and the film does a good job of creating spooky environments filled with tension and dread. It's not a masterpiece by any means, but I found it to be a solidly entertaining and undemanding outing that accomplishes what it set out to do.