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The Dark Tower

Based on Stephen King's compelling series of fantasy novels, The Dark Tower illuminates a titanic battle between good and evil in parallel universes, seen through the eyes of a conflicted 11-year-old boy. Director Nikolaj Arcel's eagerly anticipated film has been plagued with widely publicised setbacks during production, including repeated polishes of the script and reshoots. All of those beads of sweat and blood-tinged tears have delivered a muddled odyssey that reduces King's cataclysmic magnum opus to an uninvolving hybrid of The Hunger Games and Divergent. A sprightly running time leaves no room for character development, and the emaciated script fails to make explicit the stakes or repercussions for the young hero as he blunders through thrill-starved set- pieces including a showdown with a computer-generated scorpion-like predator. Idris Elba is squandered as the last in a proud line of gunslingers, who has been raised to keep the darkness at bay and joins the boy on his quest. Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey manages to put a little flesh and diabolical charm on the bones of his antagonist, dispatching powerless victims with a cursory growl: "Stop breathing". There isn't a single moment in Arcel's picture that compels us to hold our breath. Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) is traumatised by the death of his firefighter father (Karl Thaning). His mother Laurie (Katheryn Winnick) and unsympathetic stepfather Lon (Nicholas Pauling) send him for counselling with psychiatrist Dr Hotchkiss (Jose Zuniga), who listens intently to Jake's descriptions of nightly visions about an alien world where a lone gunslinger readies his pistol against a menacing man in black. The shrink dismisses Jake's nightmares as manifestations of his grief. Lon grows weary of the boy's erratic behaviour and insists Jake attend an upstate facility, which specialises in treating troubled youth. Instead, Jake flees to an abandoned house from his dreams. Inside, he discovers a portal to a post-apocalyptic realm called Mid-World where a mysterious man named Roland Deschain (Elba) hankers for revenge against evil sorcerer Walter Padick (McConaughey), who intends to destroy a tower at the centre of universe that protects us from malevolent forces. Each assault on the monolith produces tremors in Mid-World and on Earth. "What happens in one world echoes in others," warns Roland, who surmises that Jake's visions are evidence of burgeoning psychic abilities - "the shine". The Dark Tower fails to shift out of first gear as director Arcel chugs through a confused mythology and dilutes jolts of terror in order to secure a 12A certificate. A solid performance from rising star Taylor cannot distract attention from the painfully disjointed narrative and an absence of suspense. The apocalypse beckons and it can't come quickly enough.