Nothing really happens in this movie. This is a fairly impressive feat, considering that it is based on an eight-volume, cult-inducing, western fantasy tale by Stephen King.
It is also a profound pity, as it stars the wonderful Idris Elba as Roland (aka the Gunslinger, the good guy) and Matthew McConaughey as Walter (aka The Man In Black, the bad guy). These are fantastic actors. They have absolutely nothing to do.
[Spoilers!]. A young boy, Jake, traumatised by the death of his father, is having visions about a man in black destroying the Dark Tower and hence the world. He draws these visions, alarming his mother who takes him to a psychiatrist to get help. Shortly after, officials from a psychiatric hospital arrive at Jake’s apartment to take him for treatment.
However, Jake recognises them from his vision, and escapes to a parallel reality called Mid-World. Things are not great in Mid-World. He soon meets Roland who tells him that the Dark Tower is like a spoke on a wheel, and all our worlds are stacked on it. Walter, the Man in Black, is trying to destroy the tower, to bring about the end of days. Roland and Jake set out to stop him.
Their journey is very straightforward. There are no plot twists, there are no surprises, there isn’t even suspense or tension. The characters are not interesting. As many reviews have noted, McConaughey is bad in this movie, but it would be very difficult to rise above the one-dimensional material he has been given, even for an Oscar winner. Both actors are very charismatic and their characters are supposed to be nemeses, but there is no chemistry between them.
One last off key note is the emphasis on guns: Roland is the last of the Gunslingers, presumably an epic brotherhood of heroes, compared in the movie to the Knights of the Round table, as in Mid-World Roland’s guns are forged from Excalibur. While in the movie Jake jokes that Roland will like our world with its easy access to guns and ammo, the fetishising of Roland’s guns was off-putting.
It is not clear why this film was made. It really doesn’t say or do anything and given the book series, may perhaps have been better suited to a 'Game of Thrones'-style TV series. Last year’s 'Westworld' has demonstrated that there is an appetite for Western-meets-sci-fi stories; unfortunately 'The Dark Tower' isn’t one of them.