Directed By: Nikolaj Arcel
Release Date: August 4, 2017
Starring: Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor
I've covered it in a handful of reviews I've written before, but this bears repeating: Just because a film adaptation of a book isn't an exact translation of its source material doesn't immediately make it terrible by default. Jurassic Park, my favorite movie, has huge differences from Michael Crichton's novel, but I love them both equally. The Harry Potter films, as another example, take decent liberties in adapting J.K. Rowling's series that don't always succeed, but never once do they feel like they're actively spitting on her work or why fans love those books. As long as an adaptation can capture the spirit of any given book, the passion for the material is clear by all those involved, and the end result is a solid movie that can stand on its own despite the changes, I'm more than happy to separate the two products and respect each for what they are.
Now, Stephen King's The Dark Tower series has been something I've been a fan of for nearly two decades now. When I first read The Gunslinger - the first book - I was immediately sucked into its straightforward story of a world that had moved on, where a mysterious man in black fled across a desert and a determined gunslinger followed, the latter driven by the desire to kill the former. It blended Western tropes with a dash of fantasy in a uniquely King way, and the series only got bigger, bolder, and weirder from there, playing with even more genres, introducing all types of larger-than-life characters (including a riddle-speaking train), and tying in with numerous other King works. For many fans of the author, including yours truly, The Dark Tower is central to everything he's done, an important, decades-long journey that deserved the right care and the right treatment were it to ever be adapted to film.
For years, numerous people have struggled to get an adaptation of The Dark Tower off the ground, and here we finally are with a product directed by Nikolaj Arcel that feels like anything but the adaptation King's series deserves.
Rather than spend its time adapting The Gunslinger, The Dark Tower pulls elements from several of the books - along with a bunch of added things - to tell the story of young Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), a gifted boy living in New York City with visions of the evil Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) and a gunslinger named Roland (Idris Elba), as well as the titular Dark Tower, which rests at the heart of the universe, keeping countless worlds connected and safe from evil that rests beyond the universe itself. The Man in Black is attempting to use other gifted children to destroy the tower so that he can rule over a post-apocalyptic universe, eventually setting his sights on Jake, who travels through a portal and into Mid-World, Roland's home and the realm in which the tower resides, and teams up with the gunslinger to help stop the Man in Black once and for all.
Directed By: Matt Reeves
Release Date: July 14, 2017
Starring: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval
I have to admit something about my relationship with the Planet of the Apes franchise before I get into talking about War for the Planet of the Apes. Of the five original movies that spanned between 1968 and 1973, I've only seen three in full, and though I respect them, particularly the iconic first entry, I've never been thoroughly enamored with the franchise in the way that, say, Star Wars grabbed me. As a result, when Tim Burton attempted to update the series for the modern day with the Mark Wahlberg-led Planet of the Apes back in 2001, I wasn't as thoroughly let down as many fans were with it, though that's not to say I was in love with it, either, at least not enough to be disappointed - or even care - that nothing more ever came of it.
When Rise of the Planet of the Apes arrived in 2011 to critical acclaim, I missed it, and when its sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, hit in 2014, I missed that, too. A part of me knew better, especially because all I ever heard from anyone was about how great the two films were and I have an undying respect for Andy Serkis, but I fell victim to not having enough nostalgia or love for what had come before to have the motivation to see them. But now here we are in 2017, with the third entry in this relaunched and reimagined series in theaters, striking gold at the box office yet again and basking in critical praise, and I finally watched Rise and Dawn ahead of seeing War.
To say I regret having not seen the two films in theaters now would be an understatement, as both films are not just technical marvels but great feats of storytelling, world-building, and character work in which I found myself completely invested in a way the franchise up to this point had never gotten me to be, coming out the other end eagerly awaiting to see where War could take the series - and, in particular, its protagonist, Caesar - next.
War picks up several months after Dawn, with Caesar and his fellow apes locked in battle with the military force that had been called down during the events of Dawn to help wipe out the apes. It's a war Caesar doesn't want, but one that he's stuck with thanks to the actions of his former ally Koba, and after several human troops are captured, Caesar spares their lives to send a message back to their leader - the mysterious Colonel (Woody Harrelson) - that the fighting can end if they just leave each other alone. Unfortunately, the Colonel ignores the olive branch, and after a tragic attack on the apes' home, the apes are forced to flee to find a new one while Caesar becomes hellbent on killing the Colonel, going so far as to leave everyone he knows behind so that he can end this war on his own.
Pick a Month: