‘Dark Tower’ Is a ‘Small, Sad Pile of Rubble’ and 8 Other Disastrous Reviews

Film starring Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey holds a score of 21 percent on Rotten Tomatoes

Reviews for “The Dark Tower,” the film adaptation of Stephen King’s novels, are in — and critics say the foundation should’ve never been built.

Slamming it as a “small, sad pile of rubble” and a “fantastical faceplant,” critics gave the blockbuster a cumulative score of 21 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

“The 95-minute culmination of years-long efforts to bring ‘The Dark Tower’ to the big screen is a complete disaster, a limp, barely coherent shell of a movie,” wrote TheWrap’s film critic Dan Callahan. 

For most critics, the lone highlight seems to be Idris Elba, who “oozes a winning sense of stoic gravitas as Roland Deschain,” according to USA TODAY. Most also praised Matthew McConaughey’s performance as the Man in Black. But ultimately, not even the A-listers could save the movie.

“Despite strong performances from leads Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey, ‘The Dark Tower’ is too meager to feel grandiose, and too haphazard to feel grounded,” Collider’s Matt Goldberg wrote.

“The Dark Tower” is directed by Nikolaj Arcel, who co-wrote the screenplay with Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinker, and Anders Thomas Jensen. Elba is Roland Deschain, a.k.a. The Gunslinger, a roaming knight of the Old West who resides in a parallel dimension known as Mid-World.

He crosses paths with Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), an 11-year-old New Yorker with wanderlust who accidentally crosses over into Mid-World. Together, the two go on a quest to save Mid-World from destruction, hoping to reach the titular Dark Tower and stop a dark sorcerer (McConaughey) from using it to control infinite worlds.

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See nine of the worst reviews below.

Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

“With several credited screenwriters on the final product, director Nikolaj Arcel’s movie looks and feels like a series of cautious, nervous compromises and expository panics… Is the movie good enough to do what it’s designed to do? Not really.”

Stephen Whitty, Newark Star-Ledger

“Where’s the story? As in – any of the story. We’re given no sense of either of the two characters – just told they’re locked in eternal, infernal battle, with our cosmic cowboy dedicated to stopping the villain from bringing on a demonic apocalypse….This isn’t ‘The Dark Tower.’ This is a small, sad pile of rubble – the foundation to a franchise you can only hope is never built.”

Darren Franich, Entertainment Weekly

“[Elba’s] performance stands out. The movie around him is sadly pointless, weirdly forgettable despite a slipstream story mashing fantasy and science-fiction and Brooklyn. Bad dialogue, lame plot, fine. The bigger issue: How could a film with Elba and McConaughey have so little swagger?”

Brian Truitt, USA Today

“So much potential in terms of star power and source material goes to waste simply because it seems like the filmmakers couldn’t figure out what movie to make. ‘Dark Tower’ tosses out a lot of plot threads that never go anywhere and even the ending is rushed, like somebody forgot to study for an essay test and then has to B.S. their way out of a failing grade. Make no mistake, though, this is a fantastical faceplant, and though Elba tries his hardest, what could have been the tale of an iconic gunslinger is a big miss.”

Matt Goldberg, Collider:

“‘The Dark Tower’ doesn’t even really do us the courtesy of being laughably bad. That would take some level of ambition, which the movie studiously avoids at almost every turn. Instead, it simply exists, eager to be overlooked and forgotten. It’s a shame that this adaptation didn’t have the funding or the vision to be something remarkable because you can see glimmers of a more ambitious, exciting movie. Sadly, Arcel approaches the story with a flat, uninteresting style, never daring to challenge his audience, invest in his characters, or give us a reason to care. ‘The Dark Tower’ doesn’t fall because of a child’s mind. It falls because it’s too embarrassed to stand.”

Mike Ryan, Uproxx

“‘The Dark Tower’ is so astoundingly awful that when you leave the theater you’ll likely be less mad you wasted your time than flabbergasted that something like this could a) happen and b) be released as something that, theoretically, is going to launch a multi-platform franchise. ‘The Dark Tower’ has been in production for around ten years in some form or another. This final product reminds me a lot of the GOP healthcare plan: You’ve had all this time and THIS is what you come up with? I can already picture John McCain strolling into a theater this weekend, giving a dramatic thumbs down, killing ‘The Dark Tower’ forever.”

Kate Erbland, IndieWire

“Fans of King’s books will likely be disappointed by the way this long-awaited film adaptation speeds through essential plot points and frantically introduces characters with little in the way of rhythm or care, all in service of a rushed finale that will leave plenty scratching their heads. A tight story is one thing, but a 95-minute feature that is unable to give even the slightest inkling that it’s based on a grand-scale epic masterpiece is something else entirely. The whole universe is at stake here, but ‘The Dark Tower’ wastes precious time before it delivers any big moments, which then only arrive care of listless and muddled action sequences.”

 Matt Prigge, Metro

“If there was ever a reason to feel bad for Stephen King — a prolific word-machine desperately in need of an editor; a filthy rich master of horror who in any other age would have been a gutter pulp novelist earning no more than whiskey money per book; a scaremonger whose ideas are better served when they’re adapted by filmmakers who partly ignore his texts (see: Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’) — it’s ‘The Dark Tower.’ King has inspired plenty of terrible movies before; we guesstimate the number at around 40 to 50. But ‘The Dark Tower’ has to sting.

Rodrigo Perez, The Playlist

“Structurally, ‘The Dark Tower’ never really stands erect. Clichéd up the hilt, creatively uninspired and flaccid in its shape, for a movie about portals and strange, fantastical realms, this is a curiously unimaginative sphere with zero dimension. And as for those domestic farm animals not available to sorcerer’s who lay it on thick, you could say Chicken Little has spoken: the sky has fallen on that proposed sequel and this is no mistaken belief.”