'The Dark Tower' neglects its epic source material while Al Gore's 'Sequel' proves more vanity project than game changer.
This may be the worst advertisement for an eight-novel series ever made.
“The Dark Tower” is a sequel of sorts to Stephen King’s sprawling saga of the same name. That tale fused fantasy, western tropes and even King Arthur lore into one epic yarn. King needed thousands of pages to do it justice, crafting a nuanced, intricate realm in the process.
The film version? It clocks in at a tidy 95 minutes.
That doesn’t make “The Dark Tower” a dispiriting experience. When you align two movie stars with charisma to burn that’s simply impossible. Still, you’ll leave the theater wondering what the fuss is all about.
It’s a yarn missing the essential mythology, the world building we crave in 2017.
Idris Elba is Roland, the last of the gunslingers in a realm called Mid-World. He’s out to stop the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey), obsessed with destroying the Dark Tower.
It’s the massive structure that, if toppled, spells doom for multiple realms. Or something like that.
Meanwhile, a distraught teen named Jake (Tom Taylor) is having dreams of Roland, the Man in Black and much more in his 21st century bedroom. The lad and Roland are destined to team up to stop McConaughey’s character from fulfilling his ultimate scheme.
Or die trying.
“The Dark Tower” is breezy, no doubt. The story zips by, with every situation teasing subplots, characters and themes that demand more attention.
It’s a race to the finish line, leaving us with a few breathless action sequences and the combined star wattage of Elba and McConaughey. Taylor should be outmatched, but he holds his own better than most young actors.
Elba, good in any role that comes his way, imbues Roland with a weariness that’s barely in the script. He’s a physical presence, too, but we can’t grasp the scope of his powers. He fires bullets that have a life of their own, and he can make mystical kill shots by furrowing his brow.
For some reason he can resist the Man in Black’s spells. Audiences aren’t so lucky.
McConaughey gets what a deliciously wicked movie villain demands. A quiet, ethereal foe who whispers instead of shouting. His character is confusing all the same. He’s everywhere at once but can’t track down a wayward teen? Like every other element in the film, his Man in Black is undernourished. But he looks smashing in his all-black ensembles.
So why is he so focused on knocking down that tower? Just what is Mid-World, anyway? And is any of this meant to satisfy King fans? If not, what’s the point?
FAST FACT: Jake’s “Shine” powers in “The Dark Tower” are the same mystical force young Danny taps into with Stephen King’s “The Shining” novel.
Things get even more weird when the grim story gives way to wacky, fish-out-of-water comedy. Roland finds himself in Jake’s world, where he wolfs down hot dogs (what breed?) and quaffs soft drinks. The laughs arrive right on cue. The damage to the film’s tonal structure is considerable.
To be fair, the Sabrett hot dog product placement gets this critic’s full endorsement.
The film adaptation of “The Dark Tower” has been in the works for years. It reaches theaters just as new details emerge about a “Dark Tower” TV show. Television might be the best format for such a sprawling tale. “The Dark Tower” hardly proves otherwise.
HiT or Miss: “The Dark Tower” might be an agreeable B-movie if it wasn’t tied to a major author’s most significant series.
“AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL: TRUTH TO POWER”
Al Gore is no Tom Cruise.
That’s not a knock on the former Vice President’s appearance. It’s just that Cruise is famous for getting dirty on a movie set. He does many of his own stunts in the process.
Compare that to Gore, who peddles a “can’t we all get along” spirit in “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.” Then he lets his documentary co-stars play Bad Cop to climate changer “deniers.”
The sequel to Gore’s surprise 2006 smash is more of the same. One-sided lectures. Fawning over Gore in ways that approach satire. And cherry-picked information that begs to be fact checked.
Good thing Kyle Smith did the heavy lifting mainstream media outlets wouldn’t dare attempt.
The film opens with a disingenuous victory lap.
Gore predicted in 2006’s “An Inconvenient Truth” that coastal cities like New York could soon be flooded as sea waters rise. So the “Sequel” reminds us how Hurricane Sandy achieved just that. Only it was a massive hurricane, not what Gore predicted.
That’s how “Sequel” toys with the truth. The film showcases horrific examples of extreme weather and assures us it’s all due to climate change. Do we hear scientist confirming that fact? No. Just Gore.
A more confident polemic would take its own predictions to task. Even those who wholeheartedly believe in the climate change threat must admit many models didn’t pan out. How hard is it for Gore to say, “I was wrong’ about something tied to climate change.
Nor do we hear a syllable about ClimateGate or its own sequel.
The film offers two intertwined narratives. Gore meets with students of his climate leadership training sessions. That lets us see him in “action,” sharing his message and occasionally tapping into his fire and brimstone rhetoric.
The other thread? How the Paris Climate Accord is our last, best hope to reverse climate change trends. And President Trump blew it. Only we’re also told the rise of clean energy offers real hope for the world.
So which is it? Doom and gloom or hope and a better tomorrow?
The film isn’t quite sure. It can’t let go of the fear mongering. Nor can it admit clean energy sources aren’t sufficient to fuel the planet quite yet.
“An Inconvenient Sequel” doesn’t lack in the presentation department. This is a well-heeled production, brimming with scary footage and lush visuals. Some video is extraordinary in its timing. Footage of a person being rescued during a flood will drop your jaw.
And there’s so many shots of melting ice theater concession sales may explode.
We also get a tour of Gore’s home, offering a more intimate look at a man who almost became our 43rd president. It’s clearly meant to humanize him, making us believe whatever he has to say. Or sell.
Other intriguing moments:
- Journalists fawning over Gore, throwing him softball questions that might embarrass Larry King.
- Gore seething anew over losing the presidency to George W. Bush by a whisker.
- Gore gently mocking an MSNBC host for wanting to “feed the beast” with silly news blather rather than talk hard climate science
The film strikes a decidedly ugly note in its waning moments. Gore is in Paris to observe the accord talks, and a terrorist attack on the city stops everything cold. The city, and its inhabitants, are left reeling. Gore must stop his climate crusade, but only for a moment until he can weaponize the grief.
We have to fight back with our values … like saving the planet from climate change, he argues. It’s such a remarkably tone deaf moment it’s a miracle no one in the production didn’t throw a yellow flag.
The film’s dishonest streak spikes during those climate talks, depicted as a significant event in human history. Except even left-leaning outlets admitted those talks were far from revolutionary.
Richard Chatterton, head of climate policy at the group, which provides analysis used by investors, said: “The deal reached in Paris is weak, containing no concrete increase in the level of ambition to address climate change, and simply urges countries to do more over time.”
Gore remains an elusive blend of folksy and stiff throughout “An Inconvenient Sequel.” Near the end, this recovering politician lets loose with his final attack line. He compares climate deniers to those who denied civil rights to blacks.
You can take the politician out of D.C…
HiT or Miss: Al Gore returns with “An Inconvenient Sequel,” a propaganda effort that would work far better by admitting the flaws in the alarmism models.