A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Dark Tower is a sci-fi/fantasy adventure based on a series of epic novels by Stephen King. The main issue is the movie's strong, frequent violence. Expect to see guns and shooting, killing, knives and stabbing, some blood/bloody wounds (including glass going through someone's hand), explosions, and scary images. Boys fight at school, a boy learns to shoot a gun, and there are children in peril/pain. Language is sparse but includes uses of "s--t" and "hell." An adult takes a fistful of pain pills, and a boy comments that they're "the good stuff." While the content isn't inappropriate for younger teens, for teens and up, it's a big disappointment creatively. Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey co-star.
What's the story?
In THE DARK TOWER, Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) has vivid dreams about a man in black using kids to try to destroy the world -- and a gunslinger attempting to stop him. Following a clue, Jake discovers a secret portal and learns that these things are real. He meets the gunslinger, Roland (Idris Elba), and together they set out for the place that Jake saw in his dreams. He learns of the Dark Tower, which protects the universe from monsters, and how the man in black, aka Walter (Matthew McConaughey), hopes to destroy it and bring about Armageddon. Jake also learns that he has "the shine," a great power that Walter hopes to harness. Roland wants revenge against Walter, while Jake hopes to save the universe. Unfortunately, Roland is wounded by a monster attack, and Jake is captured. Will Walter's evil plan succeed, or can Jake's willpower and Roland's guns save the day?
Is it any good?
Based on Stephen King's novels, this sludgy science fiction/fantasy dud reduces King's epic vision to a series of mindless clichés, surrounded by lazy dialogue and half-baked visual effects. Noisy, junky, and without any kind of mood or rhythm, The Dark Tower connects somewhat to King's Shining universe, but this is as far from Kubrick as a movie can get; it's closer to sci-fi/Western disaster Jonah Hex. Akiva Goldsman is one of the credited screenwriters, and his usual penchant for over-explaining everything is here. But he and his fellow writers still can't make sense of the truncated plot or find reasons for any of this stuff.
Director Nikolaj Arcel tries to cover up his shaky footage, sloppy editing, and cheap-looking monsters with plenty of darkness, but the ruse is all too obvious. Oscar-winner McConaughey is flat-out awful as the man in black, coming across more as smarmy and annoying than menacing or threatening. On the other hand, as Roland the gunslinger, Elba is the only cool thing in the movie. So it's a crying shame that he couldn't have been involved in something more imaginative (or even something totally different, like a new James Bond movie).
Talk to your kids about ...
Is the movie scary? What's the appeal of scary movies?
Does the gunslinger's preoccupation with revenge make him less of a good guy? Why or why not? Do you consider any of the characters to be role models?
If you've read the books the film is based on, how does the movie compare? Which do you usually prefer: the book or the movie?
Teens: Have you ever felt like your parents don't listen to you? What have you done about it?
- In theaters: August 4, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: October 31, 2017
- Cast: Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor
- Director: Nikolaj Arcel
- Studio: Columbia Pictures
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Book Characters
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: thematic material including sequences of gun violence and action
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.