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Movie Review: The Dark Tower

What are they even doing in these posters?
Constant Reader, it is with great sadness that I report that The Dark Tower movie does not exist on my level of the multiverse. Although unexpected, the sudden disappearance of a piece of popular culture from one or more levels of the Tower is not unprecedented. There have been reports from both my dimension (Level 17) and others of the disappearance of such works as Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the Anakin-centric Star Wars prequels, and that terrible season of Community.

Indeed, Stephen King’s own eight-book series describes the mechanism by which such disappearances occur. Pere Callahan, in Wolves of the Calla, explains that it is possible to slip from one level of the Tower (that is, from one universe to another) without even realizing. For Pere Callahan, that movement was measurable by which president was on which denomination. For me, here in the lonely world of Level 17, it is popular culture.

But not all hope is lost. The Man in Black has portals. Roland Deschain has the psychic powers of Sheemie and the other Breakers of Algul Siento. I have a resourceful sidekick capable of interdimensional travel: Sam T. Cat. You’ve met him before.

Josie: Sam T. Cat, can you hear me? We have audio but no video. These North Central Positronic hookups are pretty sketchy.

Sam T. Cat: [static] This is Sam T. Cat reporting from Level 19 of the Tower, where I’m standing in front of the Majestic Theatre in Midtown. I just emerged from a screening of The Dark Tower and am prepared to give a full report on this highly-anticipated reboot of Stephen King’s magnum opus.

Duckling: Meow! I’m here, too!

Josie: Duckling, seriously? Didn’t I tell you to stay in the bedroom?

Duckling: I’m not in the bedroom?

Sam T. Cat: Much like Eddie Dean and Roland himself in Book Seven, Duckling found himself swept up in the tide of interdimensional travel. Nonetheless, he has comported himself admirably.

Josie: Okay. I’m sure he’ll be fine. So, Sam, what are your thoughts on the film?

Sam T. Cat: To call it awful would be an insult to the Romantic origins of the notion of awe, dread, and the sublime. To call it boring would be pedestrian, if not inaccurate, and to call it unnatural would be an insult to the notion of art, artifice, and the great strivings of both cats and humans to transcend our natural limitations in order to achieve a semblance of understanding of both the universe and our place in it.

Josie: So it’s boring? That seems like the worst verdict of all.

Duckling: Sometimes there was cheesy music, and then sometimes there wasn’t!

Sam T. Cat: As he sometimes does, the pudgy cat speaks with wisdom beyond his capabilities. The film’s greatest errors are those of omission. It lacks, to name but a few basic components of narrative film: development of character, logical motivation, or decent fight scenes. It had all the excitement of a Wikipedia summary and all the salty tedium of a Taco Bell burrito. You will notice that both of those items are nothing but tawdry imitations of better-quality goods, consumed out of necessity and unable to slake one’s need or one’s desires.

Josie: Surely, there must be some redeeming feature. How was Idris Elba? He’s usually wonderful. You loved him in Zootopia and The Wire.

Sam T. Cat: My affection for Elba remains unchanged; he has great skill in transcending thin material. He makes excellent use of that skill here.

Josie: And what about Matthew McConaughey as the Man in Black? He’s reinventing a role pioneered, with beautifully over-the-top malice, by Jamey Sheridan in The Stand miniseries from the 1990s.

Sam T. Cat: In my esteemed opinion, the McConaissance is only slightly more overrated than the actual Renaissance. In this film, he demonstrated his great skill at creepy whistling and made excellent use of his man-cleavage.

Duckling: “McConaughey” is really hard to spell!

Josie: But it must be good, right? I mean, the Dark Tower series is epic. It’s a whole set of nested worlds with complex characters who have distinct—often divergent—motivations. The best moments are the little ones, in which the ka-tet sits around the fireside, and the big ones, as when Roland slaughters an entire town to continue on his quest. It’s a world with clearly defined good and evil, populated by characters who realize that, at the personal level, there can be no clear definition between right and wrong. Moral nuance in a “world that has moved on.” Surely the movie picks up on some of that.

Sam T. Cat: Here, Roland Deschain must defend himself against the Man in Black’s ability to make rocks float.

Josie: Um…

Duckling: There was a portal numbered 1408, and a portal numbered 1919, and an old theme park called Pennywise! The Man in Black shot laserbeams of psychic power at a big tower because he is a bad man!

Sam T. Cat: Once again, Duckling is not incorrect.

Josie: There must be one nice thing to say about the movie. One nice thing, and then I’ll feed you treats.

Sam T. Cat: You know my weaknesses and you exploit them—I sometimes wonder who is really in command here. Alas, attend: at one point, Roland has a line about speaking animals. Elba’s deadpan delivery elicited a small meow of approval from me.

Duckling: And I nearly choked on my popcorn!

Josie: Okay, Sam. Why don’t you head on home and we can do treats and belly rubs.

Sam T. Cat: This is Sam T. Cat, interdimensional traveler, reporting from Level 19 of the Tower. Long days and pleasant nights.

Josie: And there you have it, folks. The official verdict from another dimension seems to be that we shouldn’t mourn the loss of The Dark Tower from this world, since it would be terrible to subject oneself to such a disappointing adaptation. I'm glad I couldn't see this movie.

Zero out of four Horns of Eld. Or, to paraphrase Jake Chambers himself: “Don’t go, then. There are other movies than this.”

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)


  1. I thought Sam was another Doux reviewer until Duckling popped in. I'm not familiar with the books, but this was such a fun read. :)

  2. It had all the excitement of a Wikipedia summary and all the salty tedium of a Taco Bell burrito. It's rare when I laugh this hard while still on my first cup of coffee.

    I'm so happy to see Sam T. Cat return and review this movie for us! Sam T. Cat's take on an Under the Dome episode is one of my favorite reviews on our entire site. http://www.douxreviews.com/2013/07/under-dome-manhunt.html. (Josie and Duckling's contributions are also hilarious.)

    I am also sad for Stephen King and Idris Elba, both of whom I adore. Although there are exceptions, it appears to be difficult to translate King's books to film.

  3. Nice to hear from Duckling. I hope both kitties made it back home safely after their adventure! Sorry they were disappointed; I know their human was looking forward to this movie.

  4. It's sad to hear that this adaptation is so poor. I guess some of it is to be expected. It's a sprawling, epic series that's been in development hell forever. But still, the quality of actors gave me some measure of hope that it would be good. Oh, well.

    On a lighter note, I'll record the praise for Sam T. Cat, the obvious superior being. And Duckling is always a sweetheart. :)

  5. Or, you know, repeat the praise for Sam T. Cat. Whichever makes more sense.

  6. My wife is a big fan of the books. We saw this last night and thought it was poor. There really didn't seem to be any point to it.

  7. Why is it so hard to make a great adaptation of King's writings? The source material can be sublime and then we get an adaptation that is ruined by bad casting or a cheap production. I don't know what went wrong with the Dark Tower, I didn't get into those books. I do know that casting Molly Ringwold as Frannie in The Stand was bad, Under the dome was a not great book and worse series, The Mist is terrible on TV, but a wonderful short story,The Shining was great fun with Jack N, but the TV one was awful. The TV production of It was okay, but they messed up on Beverly. She was supposed to be beautiful but we got the nerdy girl who plays Becky on Supernatural. I'm nerdy, too, so no offense to the actress.

    Misery, Pet Cemetery, and The Shawshank Redemption were pretty good, though. I didn't like the casting in Shawshank. Red was supposed to be a red-haired Irishman and Tim Robbins was not what I pictured for the lead, either. Haven was good until the last part of the season.

  8. Sorry, me again. I meant to add that reading Josie's reviews is like taking a master class in writing. My favorite review was the one that used gifs of Lion King, but I can't remember which one that was.

    Also, I just realized that I left "why is it so hard" on the side comment bar. That sounds like one of those- That's what she said - jokes.

  9. You're absolutely right that the actors who played Andy and Red in Shawshank didn't match how they were described in the novella, but I can't imagine Shawshank without Morgan Freeman. I thought he should have gotten an Oscar for that role. And Tim Robbins was wonderful, too.

  10. Sadly, I cannot take credit for the Lion King gif review. That was Sunbunny: http://www.douxreviews.com/2014/11/person-of-interest-devil-you-know.html#more

  11. I think the best adaptions of Kings work were Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. Shawshank's characters may not have fit the physical description from the Novella but they perfectly captured the spirit of hope and resilience that King had meant to convey and they elevate the movie to a classic. The writing is sublime but Freeman and Robbins make it magical.

    Also not mentioned are The Dead Zone and Dolores Claiborne. Christopher Walken played his most sympathetic character (besides The Deer Hunter)yet and it was a faithful and haunting adaption. Dolores Claiborne was another departure from King's typical supernatural fare but it definitely works as a drama and a character study..

    It's funny but even the early tv efforts for both The Stand and Salem's Lot seem to fare better than the current tv adaptions..There were some casting issues and amateurish special effects but they're still more acceptable than with Under the Dome or The Mist...which seem so generic and homogenized and meander without any real direction. And King was an expert at creating likable characters which these both seem to lack.
    But without the the right script and direction even the best actors can't make filet mignon out of canned spam. You have to have the right material to work with and sometimes Hollywood is no better than network tv. They just churn it out.

    I'm still looking forward to "It"...a fantastic book that hasn't been done right by so far...The trailers look promising.
    And are they still considering a tv series for The Dark Tower? That's what they should have done in the first place..But on cable..not network.


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