CommonSpace film critic Scott Wilson takes a look at the films of the moment
THE END OF SUMMER brings with it films that didn’t fit anywhere else in the cinematic year, and sometimes there’s a very good reason for that. With The Dark Tower, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, and Annabelle: Creation, this is a mostly harmless week.
The Dark Tower – ★★☆☆☆
It won’t be said often, but this is a film that needed to be longer.
HBO’s success with Game of Thrones is in large part due to allowing a sprawling book series the appropriate amount of time to tell its intricate story. Even the Harry Potter films felt too condensed and most of them shot past two and a half hours long.
At just over 90 minutes, there’s a lot to pack into this film interpretation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series and not a lot of time to do it. Focusing on the sinister Man in Black’s intent to destroy the titular tower, presumably chapters upon chapters of material have fallen by the wayside.
Instead this is a cinematic hop-on, hop-off bus tour of King’s book series, nodding towards a character’s existence here, some back story there, without ever actually getting off the bus to explore.
The Man in Black is utilising the screams of children to attack the tower, without ever explaining why he’s called The Man in Black, why screams damage the tower, or why the tower exists.
It’s diluted down to a fantastical fight between good vs evil that’s more bewildering than enchanting. Idris Elba is The Gunslinger, Matthew McConaughey is The Man in Black, and both have been appearing in the dreams of Tom Taylor’s Jake Chambers. Jake is a young boy in the world as we know it, but The Gunslinger, The Man in the Black, and The Dark Tower all exist in Mid-World.
That’s about as much as the film offers. The Man in Black is utilising the screams of children to attack the tower, without ever explaining why he’s called The Man in Black, why screams damage the tower, or why the tower exists. Each scene hints at a vast world full of life and personality without ever dedicating any time to it, too devoted to rushing towards the finish line.
The performances are fine, and what there is of the world is fun to spend time in, but as a film it’s too much of a mess to recommend in good faith. It did make me pick up the first book in the series, so if it converts a few people to King’s magnum opus, then maybe some good will come of The Dark Tower’s existence.
An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power – ★★★☆☆
As much a film about Al Gore as it is about climate change, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power is a follow up to An Inconvenient Truth, released over ten years ago to critical acclaim and award success.
It’s likely the people who seek out An Inconvenient Sequel are the converted rather than the sceptical. In that sense it’s more of a rally cry than a lecture. Gore is in politician mode, even if he’s left office behind, as he acts as a diplomatic go-between for the audience and those who are leading the way in campaigning against climate change denial, and those who are developing ways to harness green energy.
It does a good job of showing the fork in the road – where we are able to go if we’re sensible, and where we will go if we don’t change from the path we’re on. Despite increasingly powerful storms and rainbombs, political agreements are in place to move towards renewable energy. In some ways it’s a celebration of people acknowledging the guaranteed danger of ignoring climate change, while reminding us that a certain president of a certain country recently made the decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement.
His conviction is refreshing, especially in a time of clicktivism – he’s out there talking to people, protesting, and warning what will happen if we don’t listen.
There’s a joy to be had from seeing someone with a platform and with influence fully devote themselves to a cause with earnest. This is a crusade for Gore and he means every word. His conviction is refreshing, especially in a time of clicktivism – he’s out there talking to people, protesting, and warning what will happen if we don’t listen.
Thankfully, he’s punching up. An Inconvenient Sequel isn’t trying to guilt trip the individual who forgot to recycle a plastic bag. It’s concerned with vocal climate change deniers, and those who profit off of killing the earth. It’s Gore’s invitation to join his crusade and campaign with him. Considering he really means it, it’s tough to turn him down.
Annabelle: Creation – ★★★☆☆
Annabelle: Creation is a prequel to Annabelle, itself a spin-off prequel to The Conjuring. It’s easy (necessary, even) to feel cynical about these franchises that twist and warp just to fit one more entry into them; even more so when the two main entries in The Conjuring series have been great. Rather than rush to expand a mythology, it can be best to wait and release a film once there’s something substantial to work with.
2014’s Annabelle fell victim to this. While the titular doll would be scary in any situation, the film was a dud, and the studio would be forgiven for shelving this narrative meandering and refocus on The Conjuring. What a surprise then that Annabelle: Creation delivers the goods, like a cinematic ghost train set in an appropriately old timey house.
Creation goes all the way back to who Annabelle was before the horrors, and why a demonic presence was drawn to her. The doll’s origins are covered, too, lovingly carved by her father in his work shed. Years later, the father runs an orphanage, and we follow a group of young girls as they come to live with him at the house.
Audiences are conditioned to expect respite once the night passes, but Creation toys with expanding the night, ramping up the stress levels.
It’s not long before things are going bump in the night. What sets Creation apart is the amount of time dedicated to these scares – the night time scenes (because demons clearly hate daylight) feel longer than usual, as if the ghost train is just that little longer than before. Audiences are conditioned to expect respite once the night passes, but Creation toys with expanding the night, ramping up the stress levels.
It doesn’t break the mould, but it serves its purposes well. It is scary, it does add to The Conjuring’s mythology, and it does make you care for its cast of characters. Fans of horror should be suitably spooked, while those who aren’t so keen can rest easy knowing they don’t need to see the trailer again.
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