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The Dark Tower is a complete mess for sure; for a supposed epic that intends to launch a cinematic universe, the briskly paced 95 minute flick is short on serious world building and many of the qualities required of such epics. That being said, despite some weak characterization and corny dialogue, there is some charisma to the film, most of which come from the strong performances. No, it’s not a great movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a highly watchable one.

Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) is a young boy living in New York, and suffers from vivid nightmares of a mystical tower protected by a gunslinger (Idris Elba), who wages war against a villainous man in black (Matthew McConaughey). When Jake discovers that this is a real world in a parallel universe, he is tasked with helping the legendary gunslinger in his efforts to protect a tower that guards the universe from hell. Taylor is remarkably emotional and versatile for such a young performer, and his charisma as a performer single handedly carries much of the film.

While McConaughey certainly plays into the campy schlock elements of the film, Elba gives a reasonably grounded, dramatic performance that adds some serious gravity to the film. There’s some remarkable action, including a terrific finale, and for a film so short on character building, the film resolves surprisingly well. The Dark Tower is a perfectly fine, non-offensive watch, nothing particularly special, but certainly not the worst example of Hollywood’s franchise building. Grade: B-