Was ‘The Dark Tower’ poorly reviewed because of Idris Elba or in spite of him?

New York premiere of 'The Dark Tower' - Arrivals

The Dark Tower opened in North America last weekend and everyone is just… disappointed. It was always going to be difficult to adapt Stephen King’s opus, but many critics complained about how the plot didn’t make any sense, and that Idris Elba in particular was “too good” to be in this kind of mess. The film currently sits at 18% with “all critics” on Rotten Tomatoes, just FYI. Anyway, the film did debut at #1 at the box office… with a North American haul of just $19 million, barely beating out Dunkirk (which is like the hit of the summer). Idris recently discussed the fact that he knew ahead of time that the film probably wasn’t going to be crazy-popular:

“It’s very rare that people who love a book are satisfied by the film,” he sighed to Time Out London. “Stephen King is an author whose imagination is so wild, everyone interprets for themselves what the things he writes might look like. People will go: ‘It shouldn’t look like that!’ Even my casting was massively polarising. I suspect I might get a real b**locking for my performance. Or not!”

[From TV3]

The thing about it is that no one really complained about Idris’s casting once they saw the movie – they complained about how the movie is really not-great. Most critics, as I said, noted that Idris’s considerable talent is consistently being wasted by these kinds of films. But maybe Idris does have a point: could it be that people were “turned off” by his casting? I don’t know. It didn’t seem that way. As for people being disappointed with a Stephen King adaptation… um… King’s books are generally some of the most beloved book-to-movie adaptations around. Everything from Carrie to Misery to The Shawshank Redemption, all of those films are classics and brilliantly adapted. While The Dark Tower was always going to be trickier, the fact of the matter is that Idris deserves better scripts. Just, in general.

World premiere of 'Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets'

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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53 Responses to “Was ‘The Dark Tower’ poorly reviewed because of Idris Elba or in spite of him?”

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  1. lunchcoma says:

    In spite of him. It’s not a good movie, and really, would have been better off in a TV format, where more material could be included.

    • V4Real says:

      I’m still going to see it. About 15 teens from my job saw it and loved it. They were unaware of the book but they loved the movie

      • magz says:

        Wait is this movie a condensed version of all 7 books? Cause no wonder that it wasn’t good. How could you even fit all that stuff in 3 hrs blows my mind.

      • mar_time says:

        My husband LOVES the books and we saw it on Saturday. We both enjoyed the movie and I don’t understand why people think the plot is difficult to follow or boring or whatever. It was enjoyable and well made. I enjoyed it as a person new to the story and he enjoyed it how it introduced audiences to the story…

    • Leigh says:

      This. TV is basically where everything good is these days, the limited run-time of a film was never going to be able to do this series justice/kick off an actually GOOD franchise for the books.

    • Achoo! says:

      I think they intended there be first a movie and then a TV series and then another movie and TV series. The whole concept seemed a bit off from the get go , which was the studios doing. Pencil pushers screwing up the entire concept/ franchise. Not surprised at the mess really but I am surprised tha King allowed it.

  2. Erinn says:

    I’m disappointed. This looked like it was going to be good. One of my husbands friends saw it on Saturday and said that there wasn’t a whole lot worth seeing outside of the trailer. I had high hopes for this, so I’m cautious about watching it now.

    • Laura says:

      My husband loves the books and was very disappointed in the movie. He was annoyed that the movie focuses on the younger child and not the Gunslinger (Idris) and that it is rated PG-13 when is should have been R rated because of the source material.

      • mar_time says:

        My husband made the same two points, actually!

      • Suzy says:

        It did feel like it was a kids’ movie as opposed to an adult film, and it just felt too simplistic. My husband said that the books take years for the Gunslinger and the kid to get to the tower and the confrontation with the Man in Black, and thus their relationship is very deep and complex, but the movie made it seem like everything happens in a few days and it just lost the gravity it should have had, among other things. I feel like so much more could have been done with it and with the actors, who were wasted by a lousy script.

  3. Bridget says:

    Didn’t people love his casting?

    It’s a crazy series, and it sounded like they missed out on what made the first book special when they made it into a movie. Classic case of focusing too much on starting a franchise rather than making a good movie.

    But don’t forget that King adaptations are notoriously hit or miss. For every Shawshank Redemption you have a Pet Cemetary.

    • KLO says:

      S. King has put out so much work that even with the occasional shitshow he pretty much has more good books and good movie adaptations of his books than anyone around. Work ethic will do it to ya.

      I love it that it will take me a lifetime to get through all his books. ( I cant handle more than 3 in a year, too much soul-sucking gore)

  4. Angel says:


  5. third ginger says:

    My husband loved the books, saw the film and was disappointed, but not in Elba. As Kaiser indicates, most critics have lamented the waste of Elba’s talent. A few years back, this man took home two SAG awards in one night, one for LUTHER and one for the NETFLIX project BEASTS OF NO NATION. Television is more than ever the source of good scripts. However, still have hope there’s a movie script as good as this talented, charismatic actor.

  6. Joanie says:

    Idris is one of the few good things about the film.

  7. rachel says:

    It’s something to blame Idris for the poor reviews or box office. I mean if an actor needs to be blame Mathew McConaughey should be the one, since is Oscar he had number of flops. The truth is the studio behind the movie spend it’s time interfering with the work of the director than decides to dump it in August. That’s really not the month for a movie like this.

  8. Mia 4s says:

    The Dark Tower failed because it wasn’t a good enough movie to bring in new fans and because it massively disappointed book fans by not being faithful to the books. Nothing to do with the actors. Idris couldn’t have saved it, no one could have from the sounds of things…except a decent writer!

    Having read to books I honestly would not have cast Idris. Nothing to do with skin colour, that is irrelevant, but more to do with physical type. From descriptions I always pictured the Gunslinger as withered, haggard, very thin; someone you wouldn’t peg as able to be a physical threat. Idris is the opposite of all those things! With his casting and with the rating (this is an R rated series through and through, not PG13!!) I could see Hollywood was doing its own thing. What a disaster.

    • LAK says:

      I really dislike *book lovers insisting films should be faithful to the book. 2 very different mediums. The most wonderful book to film adaptations are the ones that take the themes of the book and run with it as opposed to chapter and verse recreations.

      The list of successful book to film adaptations that didn’t follow the book exactly is long and glorious whilst the ones that did are littered with failures.

      *i am a book lover myself, so i get the desire to see a faithful adaptation, but i also appreciate the difference in medium of film and how that can enhance or destroy a book.

      • spidey says:

        even 5’6″ Tom Cruise as 6’5″ Jack Reacher? :)

      • Mia 4s says:

        Don’t necessarily disagree but in this case they may as well not have bothered with the book as the source at all. I’ve now been thoroughly spoiled so the best way I could describe it is imagine that instead of the movie version of Jurassic Park they only made the Lost World? Or if they made Lord of the Rings and centered the entire thing on Pippin and his point of view? They believed (and I agree) that they had great source material so they…threw away the themes, set pieces, plot, nature of the characters, timeline, and watered it down almost beyond recognition? This went well beyond “adaption for the screen” this was “oh crap this is too complicated and adult for us! Change everything!”. They had no idea what themes to use! Honestly, they deserved to fail.

      • V4Real says:

        Oh LAK I love you for this. That’s how I feel about people comparing the books to the films. If the book is based on a true story or real events then fine. But why complain over not staying true to a fictional book turned into a fictional film.

        And why blame Idris, wasn’t Matt in it to, Oscar winning Matt

      • Mia 4s says:

        “But why complain over not staying true to a fictional book turned into a fictional film.”

        If it’s a good film then sure, why complain? If you love the book and they make a garbage film of it (which reviews and reaction seems to indicate they did here), why not complain? Maybe if they’d followed the book a bit more closely they could have made something worth watching instead of a failure?

      • Diane says:

        LAK, I generally subscribe to your school of thought reference film adaptations of novels, but it varies. Some books are inherently tied to character descriptions, and how the storyline and other characters evolve from that, so I do understand Mia’s school of thought. I tend to view films that greatly differ from the source material as AU, or inspired by. Lot of bad books to film have greatly benefited from this view. So when it works, it’s great.

        However, I can see how fans of the source material can take offense if it isn’t a true adaptation, or in a lot of cases not even done remotely in the spirit of the novel. If the film is done in the spirit of the novel/series that can also make up for a lot of changes from book to film. This is also where this went wrong with this movie. It’s why I try to read the books first before watching film adaptation. I love this book series, the world building alone. I recommend this be done with all Stephen King books because of the track record with getting them wrong in the film version.

      • Llamas says:

        The Shining comes to mind as a classic movie that deviated from the book quite a bit. Same with One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

      • Persistent Cat says:

        “I really dislike *book lovers insisting films should be faithful to the book. 2 very different mediums. The most wonderful book to film adaptations are the ones that take the themes of the book and run with it as opposed to chapter and verse recreations” – Lak

        I love what you wrote here. Highly unpopular opinion but what I found fascinating about the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movies was how each focused on something slightly different from the book. Two very good interpretations.

      • Suzy says:

        The Jack Reacher thing bothered me because Reacher’s size is so much a part of what makes him intimidating in the books and Tom Cruise just didn’t have that. Movies don’t have to follow books perfectly, but when they alter essential facts that the books are based on, then it can really ruin the whole concept. I’ve seen that happen with some childrens’ book adapations in the past…The Seventh Son and The Dark is Rising. No point in basing a movie on a book when you change the entire story and concept into something else!

    • Shirurusu says:

      Too bad it seems like the script sucked :( I agree with you about Idris casting in this, I think he’s a great actor but I love the books and the gunslinger is such a wild eyed worn out desperado after his chase, I imagined him as someone who basically hasn’t eaten anything or had any water in ages lol. Honestly Idris looks too muscly and well fed (and hot). I also don’t understand what happened to Etta, is she even in the movie? Don’t think I’m going to see it :/

    • Bridget says:

      Really? I loved his casting. Roland is essentially supposed to be old school Clint Eastwood, and I thought Idris Elba was a great spiritual successor.

  9. Miss S says:

    I’m a fan of King’s books but I will see this film, even knowing it’s not great because of Idris. I can’t even stand Mathew McConaughey but I willing to make the sacrifice. The film is clearly short for such a complex universe.

    • KLO says:

      mathew M. Will forever be the “alright alright” guy for me, I cant even. But i WILL see this movie.

  10. Diane says:

    In spite of it. I wasn’t happy with the casting when I heard it because of how it would potentially affect the Susannah character rendering, but it was moot after I realized the focus and when it takes place. This book series is not suited for film format. I knew this was a straight money grab, especially clocking in at a run time of 95 minutes. It’s like they didn’t even try. Idris and Matthew shouldn’t have bothered.

  11. Twink says:

    He’s awesome but the trailer looked confusing af and gave me a headache. Speaking of King, Looking forward to It.

  12. KBeth says:

    Idris is sexy as hell.
    I don’t care about the movie.
    That is all.

  13. Erica_V says:

    I thought it was a retelling of the series and I couldn’t figure out how they were going to cram like 7 or 8 books down into one movie. Knowing it’s a sequel/original story of sorts makes it slightly more interesting.

    But really – call me when they finally put out The Stand – I could get behind Matthew MCConaughey as Randall Flagg.

  14. Cami says:

    Idris was first choice for mother! Movie but he had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts with dark tower. He would of played Javier role.

  15. Ana says:

    I don’t think that The Dark Tower was a failure (critically and in the box office) because or in spite of Idris Elba. He didn’t do anything spectacular in it, let’s be real. He’s a great actor though, but you can’t do magic with a bad script. And you can tell Warner probably expected this because the movie got surprisingly little marketing for an allegedly super anticipated blockbuster that people were waiting for (I guess no one was really waiting for it except the die hard fans of the book?). It’s a blow for both Idris and Matthew McConaughey, but I think people understand it wasn’t on them.

    Now I find more concerning the fact that Detroit did so poorly. That was a black story with black actors and it really bombed, despite the good reviews. So what’s happening? All the people clamoring for more black stories on screen couldn’t go to the theatre to support one? Unlike Hidden Figures, which was an inspiring, very Hollywoodesque movie, the topic in this one was rough and political. Perhaps audiences are not into watching that on screen, despite all the discourse on social media, and just want some good old escapism. I feel like Detroit is an example of why those kind of stories are working better in TV than in the cinema nowadays.

  16. Cleo says:

    If anyone wants an under appreciated mockwatch, please watch “Sleepwalkers.” Stephen King wrote the screenplay and it’s probably the most ridiculous of the screen adaptations of his work. Seriously, it’s up there with “Troll 2″ and “The Room” for amazingly awful.

    • Dex and Destruction says:

      To say all of King’s adaptions have been successful is so wrong. His movies run the spectrum of being in the “so bad it’s actually funny” category or they’re incredible films like Shawshank or Stand By Me.

    • Deering24 says:

      *ahem* “Maximum Overdrive” gets that prize. King wrote and directed that, no? ;)

  17. mom2two says:

    I don’t think the movie was reviewed poorly because of or in spite of Idris. The Dark Tower is too layered and complex for 90 minute movie treatment. Could you imagine Game of Thrones being done in a movie or two? No way, so much of the story would have to be stripped out.

    I just think this is the case of a studio wanting to start a franchise and thinking the fans would come out for it but if they put some planning, thought and care into the movie-it probably would have been reviewed better and done better in the box office.

    From all that I read, Idris was the bright spot of the movie. It’s just a shame the script didn’t match his performance.

  18. aenflex says:

    I’m a 20+ year King fan. I’ve even met him, twice. I’ve read just about everything he’s written.

    His books don’t always translate to film well. In fact they rarely do. In my humble opinion, only The Shining was worthy, thanks mostly to Kubrick and Duvall. And perhaps Stand by Me.

    I love Roland and I love the Gunslinger series. I love Idris. But I’m not expecting much, because I’ve been disappointed with almost every King film adaptation I’ve ever seen.

  19. Amelie says:

    Is this a condensation of all 7 books into one? I’ve only read the first few Dark Tower books, the first three I think and I need to go back and reread them. I just remember having a really hard time wrapping my mind around them because they were so weird, blending fantasy with reality and portals into other worlds. I left off with the demonic train.

    • Ana says:

      Technically it’s a “sequel” of the books, meaning it’s its own story but taking all the mythology of the books. They were planning to do a TV series that would explain the background of the film, but since it didn’t do so well, I don’t know if they will.

  20. Jamieee says:

    What really stood out to me is how cheap it looked. I thought it was meant to be a big blockbuster, but it looked more like a bad B movie.

    Idris and McConaughey were great, but everything else just didn’t work. I think it might have made a good 6-8 part miniseries.

  21. Marie says:

    Read the summaries of the books after movies. Books are kinda nuts. You can’t put 7 1/2 books into one movie! The movie was centered on the young boy, “Jake.” He was good. Idris and Matthew’s performances really added to the movie. It was not outstanding, but a good summer movie.

  22. Persistent Cat says:

    I was excited to see this until I read it takes place after the last book. I only read the first three and probably over 20 years ago but I have always wanted to see an adaptation of those books. And I like Mathew McCounaghey but let’s face it, MM is MM, it’s hard to forget it’s him. I wanted the man in black to be more Malkovich-like or even more unplaceable so to me, a very unfortunate casting choice. Maybe they chose him for box office draw? I really only know Idris from The Office. I didn’t even know he was British until I saw him on some talk show (and I’ve never been a sucker for a British access but damn Idris). He is totally believable to be the badass Gunslinger.

  23. seesittellsit says:

    I only saw a couple of reviews of this, but both said Idris was the only thing holding the piece together. It was definitely an “in spite of” not a “because of”. But again, I only saw a couple.

    Except for the Thor films, Idris does seem to be having trouble transitioning from television to major large-screen star. Most of his big-screen films have flopped, except for the Thor films and his part in those is minor. I’d be curious to see what he’s being offered. Is is shortage of decent scripts or is he making bad choices?

  24. CLTEX84 says:

    Ive read all the book and saw the movie. I actually liked the movie because I went in knowing it as a sequel so I forced my brain to look at it as different from the books. However, it really did feel like they tried to condense the books into a 95 minute movie and that makes no sense to me. When the end happened I saw like ‘Wow that fast?’ I get there’s an opening for another movie, but where do you go when the other books built up to what happened with Devar Toi. I really feel it was a mistake to try to make movies of the series without starting from book one. This could’ve been another epic LOTR series with little tweaks. Being robbed of Eddie, Susannah and Oy really ticks me off! I don’t understand making this movie but making Wiard and Glass of young Roland into a TV series. The whole thing should’ve been done on TV to make things easier