You figure that a movie based on Stephen King material is going to
mess with your mind a little bit. I
understand the long-time devotees to this series are disappointed in the
liberties which the movie takes compared to the books.
But for the purpose of evaluating the movie, it has to stand on its
own. And it does, thanks to
the quality of the acting. Even
if the story line seems a little strange, and not entirely cohesive.
Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) is a kid with a problem.
He keeps having these terrifying dreams, which are so vivid that he
makes drawings afterwards of what he sees.
There’s a Dark Tower, and a Man In Black, and a Gunslinger,
zombie-like figures with human masks, a desert wasteland, and a portal
with numbers. Jake’s Mom,
Laurie (Katheryn Winnick), loves her sensitive son, but thinks that maybe
he’s gone a little wacko, so she sends him to a shrink, who thinks
it’s all associated with the death of his father.
Jake admits that was tough, and to make matters worse, his Stepdad
is not at all sympathetic, and finally convinces Laurie that Jake needs to
go away, to a special school for emotionally disturbed children.
But the people who come to take Jake away are like those zombies he
sees in his dreams; henchmen of The Man In Black.
So Jake runs away, and eventually stumbles on the portal, which
whisks him to another dimension. Here,
he meets The Gunslinger (Idris Elba), who doesn’t seem very pleased to
see him. Nevertheless, it’s
clear now that all those dreams the boy was having were in fact
representations of this other dimension.
And Jake has a special gift, a “Shine,” which allows him to see
things that others don’t.
Of course there’s the presence of evil to thwart the good guys.
The Man In Black (Matthew McConaughey) is actually a kind of
demon-figure, who is able to project his menacing presence, who brings
death and destruction wherever he goes, and is doing everything he can to
reduce the world to chaos.
It turns out that what’s keeping the world from descending into
the Abyss is not God, but instead a Dark Tower at the center of the
universe (a reconfiguring of the Tower of Babel?).
Its power keeps the deadly forces at bay, but its strength is being
weakened by The Man In Black’s campaign to rid the world of the
“pure” ones by robbing innocent children of their gentle mind-spirits.
(Yeah, it was probably explained better in the book series.)
It’s not exactly a happily-ever-after story, because important
people perish in the struggle. When
the Gunslinger and The Man In Black finally meet for their mano-y-mano,
they seem to suddenly possess anti-matter capabilities, much like The
Force in Star Wars. (But who
borrowed from whom?)
Of course Stephen King has utilized the time portal idea in other
contexts, as well, most notably in his novel 11/22/63 (published in 2011).
There, as here, the time portal is in an ordinary place which
nobody can see except those with the special capabilities (not unlike
Platform 9 ¾ in J.K. Rowling’s wildly successful Harry Potter series,
also featuring a boy with special powers).
Well, sometimes the narrative doesn’t seem to hold together very
well, and many things are unexplained, but we get the gist.
And the boy and The Gunslinger make for an unusual pairing,
especially to save the world. When
the world didn’t even know it needed saving.