- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Stephen King’s epic sci-fi Western novel series about a mysterious structure tied to the fate of the universe finally got some big screen time, but the movie crumbled before critics and now looks for rebuilding with an ultra high-definition release in The Dark Tower (Sony Pictures Entertainment, rated PG-13, 95 minutes, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, $45.99).

The plot, acting as an extension to the books, features an evil sorcerer nicknamed the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) trying to bring down a massive tower to destroy all realities and unleash monsters upon the world.

Roland (Idris Elba), a gunslinger knight, and a psychic-powered young boy named Jake (Tom Taylor) look to stop him.

However, director Nikolaj Arcel’s attempt to squeeze Mr. King’s collection of seven novels worth of adventures into a 94-minute film, even if some sort of amalgam, lacks narrative backstory and crams in far too many pieces of dangling exposition that is sure to confuse viewers.

Suffice it to report; “The Dark Tower” is a muddled disservice to the author’s fans and movie audiences.

Mr. Elba does provides some emotion to the proceedings, but Mr. McConaughey lumbers around the screen in a constant state of annoyance as if he was desperately searching for any level of pithy dialogue to redeem his underwhelming performance.

Let’s hope a 2018 television series, potentially with Mr. Elba and Mr. Taylor reprising their roles, fares far better and does justice to Mr. King’s extensive work.

4K UHD in action: Although the film’s 4K transfer from 4K-source material is a rare and welcomed event, it was not as impressive as I would have hoped.

The black levels are the highlight of the transfer — revealed by looking at the shades of blacks in the costuming of Roland and the Man in Black where textures and imprinting between cloth and leather are beautifully rendered in both clarity and depth.

Unfortunately, the high dynamic range (HDR) makes the daylight visuals often too stark and on the verge of washing out any of the overly lit objects on the screen.

Equally frustrating, scenes in the dark do not take advantage enough of HDR and the 2160p resolution. For example, a night battle midway in the film does little to help spotlight what looks like a pretty cool creature attacking Roland and Jake.

Best extras: Roughly 45 minutes of featurettes attempt to clarify and justify the film. They are led by a 9-minute overview of adapting the source material with welcomed words from Mr. King (as he discusses making a classic Western within a fantasy universe), the director, screenwriter and key cast members.

Hearing Mr. King talk about his vision is enjoyable, but the segments are awkward to watch — between the back patting and gushing about the film’s brilliance from others — especially knowing the mediocrity of the final effort.

I did enjoy a 4-minute featurette that has Mr. McConaughey and Mr. Elba reading three passages from the books while a collage of images displayed on the screen. Now, an extended version of that idea would have made an interesting multimedia franchise alone.

It’s also worth noting that viewers can access four deleted scenes that all should have been in the movie to help flesh out character and plot development.

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