August 8, 2017 -- Idris Elba seems to be all over the movie scene right now, starring in “The Dark Tower” and soon to be starring in the survival drama “The Mountain Between Us” with Kate Winslet. This is very unusual because these kinds of roles are usually reserved for white actors.
Elba first caught my eye as the character Heimdall in “Thor” (2011) but the British actor had been appearing in TV series overseas since the 1990s. He achieved widespread critical notice for his performances in the TV series “Luther” (for which he won a Golden Globe Award) and in the movies “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” and “Beasts of No Nation.” Elba has a commanding presence on screen and “The Dark Tower” makes good use of his gravitas, in the pivotal role of Roland Deschain, The Gunslinger.
In this story, based in the Stephen King novels, The Gunslinger is locked in a years long battle with Walter O'Dim, The Man in Black (played by Matthew McConaughey of “Interstellar”). This powerful, Satan-like being killed the Gunslinger's father (played by Dennis Haysbert) and the Gunslinger wants revenge. The fact that Walter also wants to destroy a bunch of worlds, and that includes our Earth, seems to be a minor issue as far as the Gunslinger is concerned.
The Gunslinger and Walter both seem to reside mostly on another planet, which is linked to ours by a Dark Tower at the center of many worlds, like the hub of a wheel. Walter wants to destroy the tower and plunge all these worlds, including ours, into chaos. Walter also has the means to travel from one world to another through science fiction-like matter transport terminals. There is a definite science fiction element to the film, along with a supernatural element.
Into this old battle steps a new player, Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) a young boy possessed of great mental powers who can see what is happening beyond his world (our earth) and is able to use his visions to operate a matter transport terminal. He arrives on another world where he meets The Gunslinger he saw in visions. Although he partners with the Gunslinger, Chambers is also targeted by Walter, who plans to harness the boy's powers to destroy the Dark Tower, using a large machine.
This story, unsurprisingly, has echoes of other Stephen King stories in it, like the use of the word “shine” to describe mental powers, also used in “The Shining.” The story is, essentially, silly. Particularly silly is the notion that the Gunslinger can't seem to find Walter's base of operations, even though Walter's death ray machine makes this big ray of light in the sky that points right to it.
The essence of the story is good versus evil. It is not a novel idea, but it works. The three main actors all do their best to carry the story along. There are some good action scenes in the film. It looks good for the most part, but some scenes appear less than adequately lit. This is not a big budget film, and it appears to be designed to introduce a TV series of the same name. There is nothing profound about it, but as a popcorn film, it doesn't have to be meaningful, just entertaining, and it is. This film rates a B.
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