By Dr. Markus Watson
Rated PG-13. Running time: 1 hour 35 minutes.
Our content ratings: Violence 8; Sex/Nudity 1; Language 4
Our star rating: (1-5): 1 star
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath,
for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Let me just say up front that The Dark Tower is not a particularly good movie. There is clearly a huge mythology behind the story—a mythology that is no doubt fully explained in the The Dark Tower book series by Stephen King, which serves as the source material for this movie. As a fan of science fiction, I found The Dark Tower to be mildly entertaining, As a fan of science fiction, I found The Dark Tower to be mildly entertaining, but it left much to be desired.
You’d think that with blockbuster names like Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey leading the cast, it would be hard to make a bad movie. But, sadly, even their talent can’t lift this movie out of the mediocrity it fell into. The characters have so much potential. The story has so much potential. But the movie leaves the viewer thinking, “So what?”
Through most of the movie I had no idea why any of the characters were doing whatever they were doing. Why was the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) wanting to wreak havoc on the universe? Where did the Gunslinger (Idris Elba) come from and why was he trying to protect the universe? Where did young Jake’s (Tom Taylor) psychic powers come from? And why should I care about any of these characters or the worlds they inhabit? The movie never gave me a reason to care.
Here’s the premise of the movie. At the center of the universe there is a tower—a dark tower—that apparently generates a kind of protective force field around the universe. On the other side of the force field are hordes of demons wanting to break in and rain destruction on the universe.
The Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) is working to destroy the Dark Tower so that evil can reign in the universe. A personification of pure evil, the Man in Black has power to make people do whatever he wants them to. He tells several people in the movies, “Stop breathing.” They stop breathing and they die. He walks past a small girl speaking to her mother and whispers, “Hate.” She turns back to her mother with a look of pure contempt.
The hero of the story is the Gunslinger, Roland Deschain (Idris Elba). The Gunslingers seem to have been an order of knights and protectors who fought to keep the evil at bay and protect the Dark Tower. Roland is apparently the last Gunslinger. But Roland’s motivation has been tainted by a desire for revenge against the Man in Black for killing his father.
At the center of all this is a young boy from New York named Jake (Tom Taylor). Jake has what the movie calls “the shine,” a psychic ability that could be harnessed by the Man in Black to destroy the Dark Tower. As you might expect, Jake ends up partnering with the Gunslinger and they fight together to defeat the Man in Black.
Here’s the question for us. What is it that keeps evil at bay—at least for Christian viewers? This movie says there is a tower that somehow keeps evil from running amuck in the world. But that’s a fantasy.
The reality is that there is and has always been great evil in the world. There has been violence, oppression, slavery, torture, and betrayal throughout history. Today we see religious radicals and rogue nations who terrorize and threaten lives. But there is also the more hidden evil of greed, selfishness, unchecked profiteering, and exploitation.
So, what is it that keeps evil at bay? The answer according to Jesus and the scriptures is counterintuitive. The world says the way to defeat violence is through greater violence. The way to achieve peace is through an imposed peace—also known as oppression. The way to achieve justice is by hitting back twice as hard.
But Jesus said, “Do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also…. I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” And the apostle Paul says, “Do not repay evil for evil…. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath…. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
This is the upside-down way of the kingdom of God. It is a logic that, rather than perpetuating the cycle of evil, brings an end to it. God is interested in getting at the root of evil, and that means capturing people’s hearts. And how does God capture hearts? Through his people as they live out the sacrificial love of God in the world.
There is no Dark Tower at the center of the universe keeping evil at bay. But there are people of light who bring an end to evil by living out the love of God.
This review with a set of discussion questions will be in the September issue of Visual Parables.