It was hot as fuck in Seattle today, a rare haze polluting the skies. Forest fires to the north in Canada have blown smoke into the city at the worst possible time. As a fat guy without air conditioning, this is problematic. I’ll take just about any excuse to escape to some AC. Realizing that it’s a Friday and new movies are out in theaters, I suddenly remember that The Dark Tower comes out today.
Depending on what you consider Dark Tower canon there are between 7-9 books that vary greatly in length all written by Stephen King. I read the first four novels of the series and I enjoyed them. I got bogged down in the fifth installment and kinda let it fall by the wayside years and years ago. They are the only Stephen King books of non-fiction that I’ve ever read. I think I more than enjoyed them, I thought they were cool as hell actually. I was shocked that of all the Stephen King books/novellas that were made into films, these had not yet been attempted. I kinda-sorta followed the Dark Tower rumors as they circulated the internet. It was gonna be a series of movies, then it was gonna be a mini-series, then it was gonna somehow be a movie that leads to a series. HBO was attached then they were not. This went on for years. First Russell Crowe was gonna play Roland then some other guy. Honestly, it was too much for my dumb brain to keep track of.
Cut to 2017 somehow this massive series is being released and it’s just a single movie. On the bright side, Idris Elba is in it. I don’t have super high expectations but the plan was to always to check it out. If you read over 1000 pages of the source material it’s kinda impossible not to see the movie. It doesn’t matter how much you are worried it gets butchered. At the realization today was the release day, it just seemed like I was meant to catch the matinee at the nearest Cinema.
Checking for theatres, it’s not at the closest three but the fourth is still within walking distance. I’m not gonna walk, but it’s in walking distance. It’s playing on two screens hmmm… one says 4DX. Again I have a dumb brain. “hey that sounds cool, I love movies filmed in 70 mm maybe this is something sweet like that” My dumb brain has decided on 4DX. There is a smart part of my brain and that tiny smart part spoke up and said “at least google it, dude.” Thanks tiny smart part of my brain. I google it. Here is the problem the dumb part of the brain did the reading and the dumb part skimmed… “Lets’s see augmented environmental effects, lights, yada yada, it’s not 3D. Good. I hate 3D. We’re good to go.”
Bus to the movie, ticket seems kinda expensive, the screen is tucked deep in this giant downtown multiplex. Outside where you walk in, on the walls there are a lot of bells and whistles advertising this 4DX stuff. I’m kinda wishing I didn’t skim, is this a big deal? I go to my assigned seat. I didn’t even know they did assigned seats at this theater. The seat is big and comfy it’s got a nice raised place to put your feet kinda like a barber/salon chair. I settle in, the previews start right away. I’m looking around wondering what the big deal. This is just a normal theater. The previews go on forever Justice League, Thor: Ragnarok, Star Wars, Kingsmen 2, it went on…I still don’t know what this 4DX is but the AC is on and I’m about to chill out and watch a movie, life is good. Or so I thought because then the 4DX kicked in.
I don’t know who green-lit this technology, but it should only be used as a torture device. As I type my back is throbbing in pain no doubt inflicted by abomination. It starts with a little preview of the technology kinda like before an IMAX show, but terrible. The ground and chair violently jerk you around unexpectedly, lights flash and you’re getting sprayed in the face with water mist. Why? Because on the screen there’s water. Smoke/steam pumps in from god-knows-where and I realize immediately, I’ve made a HUGE mistake. The very first jolt was uncomfortable, my back hated it. Whatever, I’m gonna tough it out. How bad can it be?
It’s bad. Imagine watching a movie except there is an earthquake happening while you try to watch. It’s hard to pay attention, because of the earthquake. That’s the 4DX experience with the occasional water spray in your face. There was an option to turn off the water spray. I took full advantage of that the moment it was discovered. No way to turn off the earthquakes. The movie had several earthquakes in it as part of the plot. Damage sustained by the Tower, a lynchpin of the entire universe, manifests itself in the form of earthquakes. Great. At one point Idris Elba gets stabbed in his shoulder area, and the friggin seats jab you in the back in the same place!
I want to talk about the movie but the 4DX kept taking me out of it. I kept looking to see if some of the seats didn’t move, they all did. Anytime there was any action, a loud noise, a jump scare, the room would move and shake. There was no rhyme or reason to it. It sucked. I checked the tomato meter before buying my ticket. The critics had it 16% when I walked in. The audience had it at 64%. As I type the critics have bumped it to 19% while the audience is at 63%. First let me say I give this movie Fresh on the tomato system. It was fine, I didn’t hate it. I just hated the room I watched it in. Second, if you want it to be anything like the books you will be very disappointed. If this is the only movie they make and there is no sequel then The Dark Tower will be a sad disappointment. I give the movie fresh because I was entertained from start to finish, if anything I thought it could have been longer. Usually I’m begging them to shave 20 mins off every movie. Considering I was in a bad Universal Studios ride during the whole screening, I was glad to get out when I did though.
I’m not gonna go into details about the movie’s plot. Other reviewers watching on solid ground are better suited to follow the plot. I know there was one, but all the earthquaking again was distracting. I liked this movie more than Wonder Woman which checks in somehow at 92%. It was better than Alien Covenant, I could at least suspend my disbelief for The Dark Tower in a way Alien Covenant made impossible. Kid acting is more often than not terrible but Tom Taylor played the role of Jake Chambers exceptionally well. I knew I had seen this kid in something else before. It turns out I had, as Tom had played young Uhtred on The Last Kingdom.
The first season of The Last Kingdom is a strong recommend by me if you like historical fiction.
Edris Elba and Matthew McConaughy are basically the only other actors who matter in this movie. Elba is fantastic as Roland. Fuck you, if you have a problem with a black man playing Roland. He was badass. McConaughy was okay I can see his performance being very polarizing. I thought he was fine. The writing was not great. A lot of the lines were heavy handed. Many were defiantly just for the sake of being like “See we sort of followed the books.” One line in particular about Roland’s guns being forged from excalibur was especially cringe worthy. It served no purpose in the story. The final showdown took a few liberties with physics, but what movie doesn’t these days. The 64% is much closer to truth than the 19% the critics are giving. The opportunity for a sequel was left open. I really hope it gets one, only a small part of the story has been told.
Final Score : Fresh 2.5 stars out of 5.
I’m finding out that there are only nine 4DX theaters in all of the United States, with any luck that number will one day be down to zero. A-Train out.