The Dark Tower movie opens with a bunch of kids being led into a chamber and strapped to torture chairs. Then they scream in anguish and somehow their pain is transformed into this beam of energy that shoots out into the sky and then zaps the Dark Tower, almost toppling it.

It’s a strange first scene (it doesn’t really fit the rest of the movie, which is barely about these kids for very long stretches) but it makes a nice metaphor for the experience of critics watching The Dark Tower and then reviewing it. So far the reviews for this long-awaited adaptation of Stephen King’s epic fantasy series have not been good, with just 20 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and a 34 on Metacritic. Some reviews have noted the strong lead performances (including mine). But most have hit on the same couple notes: The movie is too short to really explore this amazing mythos, the script is a mess, and the decision to focus on the Gunslinger’s sidekick Jake instead of Roland himself pushes the most interesting character to the sidelines of his own movie.

There are a few positive reviews out there (Nerdist called it “a valiant effort”) but not many. That’s got to be a disappointment for Stephen King fans, and movie lovers hoping to cap off a good summer movie season with one final blow-away blockbuster. Instead, it just kind of blows. Here’s a sampling of the reviews:

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.

Chris Bumbray,

At a mere ninety minutes, it feels like one of those YouTube fan edits of an entire series.

Brian Truitt, USA Today:

What could have been the next Game of Thrones or The Lord of the Rings is instead more akin to a 1990s Steven Seagal movie (and not one of the good ones).

Angie Han, Mashable:

It's clear there's supposed to be something rich and complicated here. There are allusions to King Arthur and golden days of yore and alternate-timeline dystopian futures. Or something like that, anyway. It's hard to be sure because this movie keeps tossing off intriguing tidbits and then just ... letting them hang there.

Darren Franich, Entertainment Weekly:

This film could launch a film franchise and a tie-in TV show, though it could also do whatever the opposite of “launching” is.

Jason Guerrasio, Business Insider:

 With a disregard to character development, or even simply giving the audience a moment to breath in the world, the feeling of watching The Dark Tower is like racing through a meal because you are late to an appointment.

Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune:

Apologies to Stephen King, author of the eight fantasy novels in the Dark Tower realm, but you can shove [The Mummy] right through the portal to Mid-World, where all the villainously bad movies go. The Dark Tower isn’t one of them. It belongs in Middling-World.

Mara Reinstein, Mara’s Movies:

Between his GQ appearance (slicked-back hair and open-chested tailored black shirt) and drawling psychobabble (“death always wins, that’s the deal”), [McConaughey] plays the role as if he’s filming an extended version of a Lincoln car commercial.

Stephen Whitty,

Not dark, just dumb.

Harry Knowles, Ain’t It Cool News:

This isn’t how you start a franchise, this is how you kill one.


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