The classic Stephen King series has made it to the big screen. Is it safe to take the kids? Is it safe to see it at all?
1. What’s it about?
Bad guys, led by Matthew McConaughey, are trying to destroy a giant tower that keeps all of the other bad guys from invading the universe as we know it, which would, you know, be bad. A sole surviving Gunslinger, played by Idris Elba, teams up with a New York kid who can somehow see all of these worlds and all of the stuff going on, and tries to stop the bad guys from winning.
2. The movie is getting really bad reviews. Is it really worth seeing?
Initially, I wasn’t going to see it based on those same reviews. But then I started reading some stuff that said that the basic problem was that the movie does a bad job of interpreting the books, and that ultimately was the problem. But people who had never read the books and could see the movie as a thing on its own would probably enjoy it. Since I haven’t read the books, I thought I’d give it a try. And honestly? It’s not a great movie. There are some really big plot holes. Some of the acting is less than great. And a lot of the writing is kind of awful. But overall, it’s not horrible. Not nearly as bad as its Rotten Tomatoes rating would lead you to believe. I mean, we aren’t going to be taking over the GeekDad homepage in a decade to celebrate the anniversary of this movie’s release or anything, but as late-summer escapist fare? There are a lot worse ways to spend 95 minutes.
3. It’s only 95 minutes?
Yeah. Director Nikolaj Arcel, the anti-Peter Jackson, took an eight-book, 4,250-page series and, along with a whole bunch of writers, condensed it down to a mere 90-minute movie.
4. Doesn’t that mean a whole lot was left out?
Well, presumably, yeah. Like I said, I haven’t read any of the books. But there were a few head-scratching moments where it might have been nice if they had spent a bit more time world-building. For instance, McConaughey’s motivation is super unclear. And we’re supposed to just take it on faith that the Gunslingers are somehow special. But in the end, it’s not a movie that you’re supposed to think too closely about, so I was fine letting that go. And at least they didn’t add entire characters and storylines or expand a battle that takes a couple of pages to describe in a book into its own three-hour movie.
5. What’s it rated? Why?
The MPAA gave the film a rating of PG-13 for “thematic material including sequences of gun violence and action.” Well, yeah. I mean, when one of your characters is called a gunslinger, you gotta expect some gun violence. But more than that: lots of characters meet violent, sometimes bloody ends.
6. Will my kids find it upsetting?
There are definitely dark elements to the movie, and a couple of the deaths in the movie will almost certainly upset younger kids. There’s also a subplot in the movie that centers around McConaughey’s character kidnapping kids and harnessing their… well, something–it’s not really clear in the movie–to try to destroy the tower. The movie doesn’t dwell on what happens to the kids afterwards, but the subtext makes it pretty clear that they aren’t just being released and sent back home. So that might be something else to be aware of with younger kids.
Older teens will likely enjoy the action in the movie. Provided, of course, that they haven’t read the books.
7. When’s a good time to go to the bathroom?
The movie is pretty short, so, hopefully, you won’t have to. But if you really must go, there’s a scene roughly halfway in where the Gunslinger and the kid are in a village. When everyone sits down to eat, you have a couple of minutes where not a lot happens.
8. Who is in it besides Elba and McConaughey?
The kid is played by Tom Taylor, who I didn’t recognize at all but who has only been in a few TV shows prior to this. His mom, though, is played by Katheryn Winnick, whom many of you will recognize from Vikings. Jackie Earle Haley plays one of McConaughey’s henchmen, along with Mad Max: Fury Road‘s Abbey Lee. The seer that helps out the good guys is played by Claudia Kim, who played Dr. Helen Cho in Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Dennis Haysbert chews up some scenery as the Gunslinger’s father.
9. Is there anything after the credits?