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The Dark Tower (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

For so many damn years, there’s been nonstop chatter about Stephen King’s series of novels dubbed “The Dark Tower”. These dealt with a gunslinger characters and some sort of super ambitious premise that everyone demanded to be put into a movie. King fans kept telling you that this was going to be the film of all films or HBO series of all HBO series if they ever adapted it. Many names would get attached over the years. Projects would stop, they would start. It almost felt like this urban legend that it would ever happen. And then, finally, something budged off the ground. The excitement came in the casting of Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey, but then the trailer and marketing came and nobody seemed to care, fans seemed to not have any defense. It was one of the summer’s biggest disappointments. I didn’t see the film, I’ve never read any of the books. So, here I am as the casual observer, going in super clean to give you the review of the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray release, made available October 31st!

Film 

Based on the best-selling book series by highly-acclaimed author Stephen King. Roland Deschain, the last Gunslinger, is locked in an eternal battle with Walter O’Dim, also known as the Man in Black. The Gunslinger must prevent the Man in Black from toppling the Dark Tower, the key that holds the universe together. With the fate of worlds at stake, two men collide in the ultimate battle between good and evil.

Nikolaj Arcel’s take on Stephen King’s The Dark Tower doesn’t really show someone unfamiliar with the books what is so special about it. There is nothing here that sets it aside from any sort of “pack”. Knowing the works of Stephen King through reading or watching a lot of movies, I’m going to go on the side of the fans and say this movie probably isn’t a proper representation of it. What is delivered here doesn’t feel very far off from the standard Young Adult books turned movies fare like a Maze Runner or Divergent type thing.

If it weren’t for Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey, I wonder how interesting this movie would be. That’s really most of what this movie has to offer. And both are very fine in here, chewing up some scenery and really giving credence and weight to a film that kinda feels hollow otherwise. The film’s next biggest castmate is Katheryn Winnick, whom I’m a fan, but she’s not at that elite level of casting you grab with Elba and McConaughey. Those two seem to be from a better movie and then placed into this one.

Just on the film side of things alone, this movie feels quite unoriginal for the most part. Any sort of character, camera work, set design or other neat technical aspects of the film feels borrowed, too. As I’m taking in and looking around at things (Trying to find positives and unique things this film delivers), I keep being reminded of other things that are much better than The Dark Tower or that this film was obviously trying to copy or pay homage to.  And as far as the action scenes and cool moments, it feels like they decided to pull most of those and stick them in the trailer.  The finale does serve up some fun gunslinging action from Elba, I’ll give it that much.

I’m sure this film wasn’t the representation of the beloved book (and graphic novel) that the fans and faithful had been hoping for. Luckily for them, it’s not incredibly embarrassing, it’s just not very interesting. The film wallows in being mediocre and generic. While some may point to a short runtime as something that hurts the film, it actually beneficial as the film keeps moving and doesn’t make you stay any longer than you have to. Said pacing also means an action sequence or a supernatural event/significant moment in the plot will occur within moments if this gets a little too down or exposition heavy. The film is watchable, indeed, and not terrible. But its not really anything you need to check out unless you are super curious.

Video 

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail:  The Dark Tower has a lovely looking 4K Ultra-HD image that is really crisp and pops nicely on the screen. Details are pretty rampant, from the distinct coloring and texturing of the bricks on a building to the fabric, patterns and feel of clothing like a battered leather jacket or a cloth tunic. This is just a really tight, polished image that just looks top notch almost to the touch.

Depth:  This has a loose and free looking image with some good dimensional work to it. Characters move naturally, smoothly and with no issues regarding jittering or blurring during the more rapid movements during some of the bigger action sequences.

Black Levels: Blacks are rich and benefit from the HDR. A very great palette of different tints and shades allow visibility and a natural feel at all times without letting go of any details or hiding anything. No crushing present at all.

Color Reproduction: There is some beautiful usage of HDR on display throughout. Reds have some great saturation and pop to lifelike proportions. Candlelight, firelight in general and also the lights from buildings in nighttime city shots really glow. Some of the best stuff comes from the supernatural bursts, especially when they occur in a darkly lit or night sequence.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and lifelike for the most part, with a couple moments hinting colder or warmer (Little redder in the face). Facial details like scars, seams, veins, sweat peads, stubble, lip texture, make-up and more come through plain as day.

Noise/Artifacts:  Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos (English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD Compatible), English Audio Descriptive Service, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Cantonese, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, French, Indonesian, Korean, Malaysian, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai, Vietnamese

Dynamics: The Dark Tower comes with a very nice, clean presentation, that like most all (at least decent) Atmos tracks deliver. Its loose, balanced and feels like a roaming, traveling soundscape, giving a whole good life to the events on screen. Effects are plenty distinct and no aspect of the mix ever steps on the others tones while still taking time to shine.

Height: The ceiling channel makes itself know in some good ways, a lot of the time when a scene is surrounded by action, but supernatural bursts and beams into the sky also make their mark.

Low-Frequency Extension: The subwoofer gives boom to the guns, explosions, paranormal magical forces, heartbeats in music, crashes and more.

Surround Sound Presentation: Audio travels back and forth, front to back and all around with pretty good accuracy and some fun as to what’s going on onscreen. Rear and side channels present some good ambiance while also stepping up to the plate when needed, to provide their own unique punch to a scene.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are ever-present, crisp and plenty loud and audible during any given moment in the film.

Extras 

The Dark Tower comes with the Blu-ray edition and an UltraViolet digital copy of the film. The bonus material is found on the Blu-ray disc.

4K Ultra-HD Disc

Moments

  • Roland (4K, 17:16)
  • The Man In Black (4K, 9:26)
  • Jake (4K, 17:44)
  • Mid-World (4K, 17:39)

Blu-ray Disc

Blooper Reel (HD, 2:50)

Deleted Scenes (HD, 6:22)

Last Time Around (HD, 9:14) – Stephen King and the filmmakers talk the novels (King was wanting a Lord of the Rings with his sort of flare to it) and the choice make a movie that helps the moviegoing audience not feel like they are missing out on anything.

Stephen King: Inspirations (HD, 4:25) – This discusses adapting and bringing the book series to the big screen. Interview bits are reused from the previous featurette.

The Gunslinger In Action (HD, 8:29) – Focuses on a grounded approach to the action sequences in the movie.

The Man In Black (HD, 8:22) – The piece looks at the film’s villain and Matthew McConaughey’s portrayal.

The World Has Moved On… (HD, 7:02) – A featurette that takes a look at the sets and locations in the film both in real life and what they are to represent and be in the film.

A Look Through The Keyhole (HD, 3:42) – Vignettes narrated by Roland (Elba) and the Man in Black (McConaughey)

Summary 

The Dark Tower feels like something best seen or caught when it comes to HBO or like a TNT one tired Sunday morning or afternoon and you just sort of stop on it. It sounds like backhanded praise, but it’s really not THAT bad of a movie, just painfully generic. This 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray presentation is anything but generic as it looks and sounds great. At this point, this release at full price is probably best for fans only and everyone else who may want it should probably wait for a sale.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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