Is PG-13 the right rating for 'The Dark Tower'?

Is PG-13 the right rating for 'The Dark Tower'?

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SALT LAKE CITY — The critics have had their go at Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower,” but do you care?

How can a movie with Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey be as bad as’s John Clyde claims? How can a movie that has been in some stage of development since 2007 be currently sitting at 17 percent on RottenTomatoes?

These are questions you’re going to answer yourself this weekend, with a tub of popcorn and a vat of your favorite carbonated beverage.

But there is one question you do want the answer to. Just how PG-13 is director Nikolaj Arcel’s take on the popular series?

Like always, let’s chat about the highlights:

The language

I counted exactly one curse word throughout “The Dark Tower’s” runtime, and it was a word you might hear on network television after 10 p.m.

I’ve been known to miss an expletive or two in the past, so on a high level, let me just say language wasn’t on the MPAA’s radar when they reached for their PG-13 stamp.

Still, there is plenty of offensive dialogue thrown around throughout the 95-minute runtime. If you’re someone who feels uncomfortable when every spoken element in a film is reduced to single lines of exposition like, “They’re just dreams?” or “Be careful using the shine, they’re tracking you,” “The Dark Tower” will insult your brain far worse than any body-slang ever could.


There is nothing sexy about “The Dark Tower.”

Maybe I missed an immodest outfit, and maybe I missed some suggestion from that one subway conversation, but again, this isn’t a category the MPAA was concerned with. At the end of the day, “Tower” saved all its rating cards for a few disturbing images and a lot of broken glass, so if you were hoping for a movie with shirtless cowboys and beautiful damsels in distress, “The Dark Tower” is not the destination you’re looking for.

Everything you need to know about “Tower’s” rating is waiting for you in the last section.



“The Dark Tower” is a pretty straightforward fantasy western that stands a good-guy cowboy against a wizardly villain. What that means is, the Man in Black shows his evil ways by speaking death spells and The Gunslinger shows his heroism by shooting minions.

There are a few mildly disturbing images of alien henchmen pushing human masks back into place or kids screaming as their psychic powers are pulled from their bodies, but almost everything PG-13 about “Tower” can be summed up by the body count in the third act. It’s high.

The final action sequence plays out like a lazy mixture of that “Attack of the Clones” wizard battle and the famous “Matrix” Neo/Trinity gun scene. Still, with the exception of an unfortunately placed shard of glass, “Tower” generally avoids gross-out scenes and graphic violence.


“The Dark Tower” isn’t trying to push any boundaries when it comes to offensive material, but it isn’t flirting with a PG rating either. Had shootout sequences mostly taken place in a science fiction setting, “Tower” would’ve felt at home among the young adult movie genre. However, since the final act lands here on Earth, it’s impossible to write-off the excessive gun violence as cartoony or even compare it to superheroic battle action.

When all is said and done, there are no marks in the language or sexy categories, but enough people die in realistic ways to justify the MPAA’s decision.

![Travis Poppleton](\.jpg?filter=ksl/65x65)
About the Author: Travis Poppleton \----------------------------------

Travis Poppleton has been covering movie news and reviews with KSL since 2009, is a frequent guest on the KSL Popcorn Report podcast and keeps up with all things Utah and film related at over at You can contact him at or on Twitter at @tspoppleton .

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