The Dark Tower reviews: Critics label Stephen King adaptation a 'flavourless slog'

Tom Butler
Senior Editor
Matthew McConaughey stars as the Man in Black (Sony Pictures)

The review embargo has lifted for Sony Pictures’ ‘The Dark Tower’ and it’s not looking good for the long-awaited adaptation of the Stephen King fantasy novel.

Intended as a launch pad for an epic new franchise (the source material is 8 books, and 4250 pages long), ‘The Dark Tower’ is currently languishing at 18% on Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer scale from 17 reviews, with that rating expected to stay below the 60% required for a “Fresh” rating.

I guess you could say Matthew McConaughey’s new film has suffered a ‘Failure to Launch’.

The chief complaints from critics are aimed at the film’s clunky dialogue, low budget aesthetic, Matthew McConaughey’s performance as the Man In Black, and a rushed plot that tries to condense too much into its nimble 95-minute runtime.

Here’s what the critics had to say:

“The Dark Tower is so astoundingly awful that when you leave the theater you’ll likely be less mad you wasted your time than flabbergasted that something like this could a) happen and b) be released as something that, theoretically, is going to launch a multi-platform franchise.”Mike Ryan, Uproxx. 

“The Dark Tower doesn’t even really do us the courtesy of being laughably bad. That would take some level of ambition, which the movie studiously avoids at almost every turn.” – Matt Goldberg, Collider.

“While sitting through this uniquely flavorless slog, a viewer jolts out of a waking sleep every five minutes or so to realize that they have not internalized a thing.” – Charles Bramesco, Guardian. 

“The Dark Tower is a deeply flawed movie. It’s a film that feels rushed and plodding, sometimes within the same scene. It’s a film that saddles two of our greatest working actors with clunky dialogue and muddled motivations.”Scott Wampler, Birth.Movies.Death.

“Fans of King’s books will likely be disappointed by the way this long-awaited film adaptation speeds through essential plot points and frantically introduces characters with little in the way of rhythm or care, all in service of a rushed finale that will leave plenty scratching their heads.”Katie Erbland, IndieWire.

THE DARK TOWER, from left: Idris Elba, Tom Taylor, 2017. (Photo: Jessica Miglio / © Columbia Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection)

“The Dark Tower is mainly noteworthy for McConaughey’s enjoyably bad performance as a force of evil who can set things on fire with his hands, order people to stop breathing, and grab bullets as they fly through the air.” – Dan Callahan, The Wrap.

“The Dark Tower left me confused and often very annoyed, but not necessarily bored. Part of that is because the movie has been cut to the bone; at 95 minutes, it’s always moving forward, often to its detriment.”Matt Singer, Screencrush.

In the interest of balance, here’s what the positive reviews had to say.

“It aims low and hits (sort of). It’s a competent and watchable paranoid metaphysical video game that doesn’t overstay its welcome, includes some luridly entertaining visual effects, and — it has to be said — summons an emotional impact of close to zero. Which in a film like this one isn’t necessarily a disadvantage.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety.

“Idris Elba and Tom Taylor have a wonderful dynamic together, and the gunslinging action scenes are appropriately cool.”Victoria McNally, Nerdist.

“Elba and McConaughey give the movie exactly what it needs from them: tarnished righteousness and stoic wisdom from the former, unruffled indifference to humanity’s suffering from the latter.” John Defore, The Hollywood Reporter.

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