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The 100




Shadow, The
(1994)
Reviewed by Chris Edwards
Rating: 5 Beans

blame Batman.

After the caped crusader's huge success, every producer went scurrying to grab a comic book hero of their own, to bring to the big screen and reap instant bucks. Not only have most of these superhero movies been box office letdowns, they've been pretty poor entertainments as well. There is a reason for this. These comics-derived movies are inevitably made on the "Three S system." The three S's are:

Sets: A fortune is squandered building huge, elaborate, dazzling sets. These should include the hero's lair, the villain's headquarters, and some assorted public venues suitable for crimes or rescues. "The Shadow" has some great sets, everything from Art Deco to ancient Mongolian.

Suits: Designers spend months developing cool outfits for everybody to wear. Black rubber is a popular motif. In the case of "The Shadow," the costumes are marvelous. The Shadow himself looks like just stepped off the cover of a pulp magazine, while bad guy Shiwan Kahn sports some gorgeous Oriental looks. The rest of the costuming perfectly evokes a fantasy '30's setting.

Stunts: Several action set-pieces must be included. The requisite hand-to-hand battles, car chases, and so forth are mandatory for a crowd-pleasing adventure. "The Shadow" is a little weak in this area, offering up some fairly tame spectacle that relies heavily on special effects. What action there is, though, is slick and well-done.

You'll notice there's no S for "script."

At this point, let me point out that I am a longtime fan of the Shadow, the character from those bloody '30's pulp novels. And no, I'm not 90 years old. I got to know the Shadow from his occasional comic book appearances, and discovered a character far darker and more compelling than any Batman (the Shadow predates Batman by almost a decade). I was as excited about the Shadow movie as all those fanboys in stormtrooper suits were about "The Phantom Menace." Imagine my disappointment. It was really heartbreaking.

Because the script was no good. In the right hands, the Shadow becomes a pure force of nature, a dark and deadly avenger with a piercing insight and a chilling laugh, mowing down bad guys with twin .45's. Not here. Instead, he banters with his arch-nemesis about neckties. He makes little jokes in the middle of battle. And he barely uses his (admittedly cool-looking) .45's at all. A figure of mystery and menace reduced to just another guy in a suit.

And did they have to use the "villain uses atomic bomb to menace city" plot yet again? It's supposed to be impressive because the story is set BEFORE the bomb was really invented. It doesn't matter-it's trite. And so is all this ESP hogwash. And so is the living dagger, tossed in purely to add some extra FX opportunities. Similarly, Tim Curry seems to be there for the sake of having Tim Currey in the movie. The Shadow appeared in over two hundred novels, any one of which could have provided a better story than this.

"The Shadow" is still worth seeing, because even Hollywood can't fully dimnish such an icon. There are those rare moments when you can glimpse how the Shadow could have generated a marvelous movie.

But this ain't it.

The Shadow knows he's worth five beans and some bitter fruit.


Other reviews for this movie:

Chris Badgley




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