THE DARK TOWER REVIEW

The DULL Tower?

With the fate of the worlds at stake, good and evil will collide in the ultimate battle as only the last Gunslinger Roland Dechain (Idris Elba) can defend the Tower from Walter O’Dim (Matthew McConaughey), the Man in Black.

BE WARNED. I’ve never read the Stephen King novels so do NOT murder me for saying that I found this quite watchable. From the scathing ratings on Metacritic, I expected something so much worse.

BUT I’m sure if one of my favourite franchises that span SEVEN books was dumbed down and condensed into a 90 minute film, I might feel completely differently.

The strange opening certainly got things going with the credits explaining about a dark tower protecting the universe from darkness and some guff about only the mind of a child bringing it down.

Cue kids strapped in machines and some weird rodent creatures disguising themselves as humans (No wonder this had a 12A rating). Dark BUT engaging as the film flicked back and forth between “worlds” from Roland’s civil war stand-off to Jake’s apocalyptic nightmares.

I thought Tom Taylor played the role of Jake quite well. I couldn’t stand him in BBC’s Doctor Foster. Bullied at school, plagued by visions of the Man in Black. Paranoia or something more?

Matthew McConaughey lapped it up as Walter O’Dim. What a name! About as bad as his hair: “You will lose that power you have to resist my magics”. Waving his hand around like a Jedi and dispensing commands: “Hate, kill each other, stop breathing”. Creepy.

The pace didn’t really mess about. It jumped from one scene to the next establishing Walter and Roland’s rivalry as well as Jake being the key to  . . . everything. Snore.

It took a good half hour before Elba’s gunslinger (Steady now) was brought into the fold properly. A man hell bent on vengeance. Elba bossed it and worked worked well with Taylor to make that inevitable pairing much more bearable.

The special effects were quite impressive and Rasmus Videbaek’s cinematography was brilliant. Aided by another stellar score from Junkie XL (Mad Max: Fury Road).

The main issue I had with The Dark Tower was that it felt a little too rushed. All that build up and promise for a mad dash finale that didn’t seem to leave much open. If there was supposed to be more sequels . . .

I had so many questions: “What was the deal with the rat things? Was it all magic and sorcery? Why alternate dimensions/realities?”. It took me an hour to realise that there were different versions of Earth. One still dormant in the 18th Century with futuristic gizmos apparently? Wild Wild West, this ain’t.

I was a little disappointed that McConaughey and Elba spent so much of the movie apart. When they were on screen together, it was gold.

Roland’s encounters with “the Earth people” were quite entertaining; “You have forgotten the faces of your fathers”, he solemnly declares to some drunk ladies on a bus as they try to chat him up.

If anything, I wanted more. 90 minutes wasn’t enough and it didn’t make full use of the supporting cast. You had Watchmen‘s Jackie Earle Haley playing such a measly role. BUT not as disappointing as Katheryn Winnick’s role.

You had Lagertha from Vikings at your disposal. Why give her such a weak part? Don’t get me wrong, there was enough emphatic exchanges between her and Taylor to make you feel for the mother and son. BUT again . . . it was NOT enough.

The action sequences were entertaining. I just wish there was a little more inventive gun play.

Considering this was the last Gunslinger who reloads quicker than the human eye, he still seemed a little laboured shooting from the hip . . . No, sorry. The heart. How did that annoying chant go?

There are blockbusters that push for the 120-150 minute mark when they really shouldn’t (*Cough* Transformers *Cough*) BUT I would have been happy to explore this universe a little more.

Shame. And that was someone who didn’t read the books.

DT offered action and entertainment to kill the time BUT it felt like it was afraid to take a chance and flesh out the stories involved.

2.5/5

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THE MAZE RUNNER REVIEW

maze-runner-poster

AMAZE-ING?! Hardly but it did do something I didn’t expect. It surprised me.

In case that sounded familiar, I think I might have nicked a Monsters University quote. In fact, I totally did.

Anyway, here we are. Another bestselling teen novel that Hollywood can adapt and churn into a million dollar franchise. Because that’s worked for every one, right?

BUT Hollywood have finally found one that actually intrigued me, caught my attention and kept it (for most of the film). AND for a moment, I actually wanted to see more. After months of complaining about the endless teen novel adaptations overfilling the box office; Ender’s Game, Divergent, The Giver, Mortal Instruments and now The Maze Runner, someone has finally listened.

Thank you, Wes Ball (Beginners).

What helped this; A talented cast, a good story and a director who wanted to try and do something with both. It’s not perfect by any means but not bad. Not bad at all.

So what’s it all about? Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) is deposited in a community of boys after his memory is erased, soon learning they’re all trapped in a maze that will require him to join forces with fellow “runners” for a shot at escape.

The opening throws you straight into the mix. We are left just as confused (unless you’ve read the book) and disoriented as our amnesiac protagonist as he tries to piece together everything. Why the maze? Why just boys? Where are the chicks? (What?).

The special effects are fantastic. The Grievers (the creatures that roamed the Maze) were brilliant. A demented mish-mash of the aliens from Signs and the mechanical spiders from Wild Wild West.

The maze running sequences were suspenseful, pacey and brilliantly executed. The drama around the community was a little predictable but with the cast at Ball’s disposal, it made it all a little more bearable and very watchable. The inevitable macho stand-off between O’Brien’s Thomas and Will Poulter’s (We’re The Millers) Gally was cliched as hell with their heated egos clashing in a game of “Let’s see who can push each over”. Manly . . . Okay.

Poulter is certainly developing well and mastering the American accent with aplomb. Funny to think he was the little lad in Son of Rambow.

His constant head-butting with Thomas still made for good viewing. To think, I only remembered O’Brien as that sarcastic guy from The Internship. However, he delivers a charismatic and solid performance as Thomas. Which certainly helps when you are the leading man.

Aml Ameen must have been a little annoyed at how his character Alby was treated. It was almost comical. You’ll know what I mean when you see it. Thomas Brodie-Sangster (the annoying kid from Love Actually or that annoying kid from Game of Thrones) played his supporting role quite well and didn’t struggle too much with the accent.

The pace generally zipped along quite well. Throwing in a new development from one of the community members or from the maze itself when things seemed to hit a lull.

The alluring Kaya Scodelario (Skins) certainly got tempers rising (Not like that!) and started getting some of our questions answered. However, I felt her inital entry was a little corny with the inevitable “It’s a girl” and “How do we deal with one?” gags being a little tedious. But this is a teen blockbuster and a 12A.

Now I haven’t read the book and can’t say how faithful it was to the source material. But it certainly piqued my interest to have a butcher’s.

Considering the film had that 12A certificate hovering around it, it wasn’t afraid to make some brave choices. The concluding moments were quite dark. A couple of things happened that even the old cynic didn’t anticipate after the reasonably sinister but tame tone that this film first promised.

The finale *POSSIBLE SPOILERS* inevitably leaves it all open for another. The final scenes were baffling and abrupt. At first I thought Patricia Clarkson’s (The Green Mile) talking head scientist was a little nothingy and unnecessary. How wrong was I after those last few moments. BUT for all my questions, I actually wanted to see what the next installment will bring. Something that hasn’t really happened for quite a few of the other “teen bestseller blockbusters”.

Now I hope that the next part will give us more of the same BUT not the exact same (I will keep that as cryptic as possible) or else my patience will be tested. BUT for a first installment, it set the tone, set the characters and hit the ground running (What? Come on).

Suspenseful, well acted, a little corny but a pleasant surprise. Run on down to the nearest cinema and give it a go.

A strong 3/5