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The Cinematic Katzenjammer: July 13: The Shadow


July 13: The Shadow

"In 30's New York City, the Shadow battles his nemesis, Shiwan Khan, who is building an atomic bomb."
Directed by: Russell Mulcahy, Rated: PG-13, 108 minutes

I really don't see why there are so many bad reviews about The Shadow. Sure, it has its flaws, but I believe it to be a pretty damn good superhero movie that's flown completely under the radar since it's release in 1994. Released in a time when the superhero movie was just becoming "relevant", The Shadow may not have been what the average moviegoer was looking for. However, I think it's aged incredibly well, and while the dialogue may be its kryptonite, The Shadow's biggest star is the special effects. Yes, here I am stating that the effects in a movie from 1994 still look great today. I was shocked at how good the film looks. It blends a beautiful combination of CGI (done very well) and huge sets that look like they were pulled off the Warner Bros. lot where Batman was filmed. 

A pretty great introduction as well. 

The Shadow tells the story of Lamont Cranston (Alec Baldwin), a World War I vet that escapes the battlefield and becomes a drug lord in Tibet. Cranston is confronted by Tulku, a monk that is willing to give him a shot at redemption, but learning the art of the Shadow and saving those in need. He learns how to become invisible, except of course for his shadow, as well as being able to manipulate the thoughts of others with his own kind of hypnotism. After seven years of training, Cranston returns to 1930s New York City. He travels the streets at night, looking for those in danger. After saving each victim, he presents them with a red ring that's used as a calling card, as his saving them means they owe him their lives. Over time, the Shadow has an agent in nearly every area of the city and relies heavily on Moe Shrevnitz (Peter Boyle), a taxi driver and the Shadow's means of transportation. Shiwan Khan, an evil ancestor to Genghis Kahn (and another student of Tulku), arrives in the Big Apple in hopes of destroying the city and its population with an atomic bomb. The Shadow then must do whatever it takes to stop the mad man. Of course, he can't do this all on his own so Cranston enlists the help of a couple of his agents, as well as Margo (Penelope Ann Miller), a woman with telepathic powers. 

She's incredibly plain looking for a leading lady. 

The best part of The Shadow is the special effects. The film uses a great combination of CGI and live effects, and as I said earlier, all of it has aged wonderfully. The Shadow simply doesn't wear a mask like you'd see on Batman or Spider-Man, but he completely changes the way he looks. Each time Cranston becomes The Shadow, a quick motion over his face completely changes his appearance, almost like a magic trick. The movie is full of moments like this, and when mixed with the noir setting and elaborate sets, The Shadow is all kinds of pulpy awesome. The Shadow is actually an adaptation of a very popular 1930s radio show (that later became a series of pulp novels). The film does a great job at capturing the time of the hero and creates a New York City you'd love to explore. However, even with these great effects and what not, the film's dialogue leaves a hell of a lot to be desired, as does Alec Baldwin's performance. The man is usually pretty good, but his performance is just too over-the-top without any substance. He's not the most likable man in the role (neither is The Shadow, honestly) and anytime he's on screen and nothing fancy is happening, you kind of just want to look away.

He has no idea what the f**k is going on. 

I'd certainly recommend The Shadow, even with its flaws. It's nowhere near a perfect film but has a pretty original story and great special effects. I am not the biggest fan of remakes, but I think a new version of the hero would be awesome. The Shadow also features great supporting performances by Ian McKellan, Tim Curry, and Jonathan Winters. Curry, especially, shines in his moments of villainy. In the end, The Shadow simply entertains. I can only imagine how great the film could be if Baldwin was actually committed to his performance and if the script had been stronger. Who knows, instead of it being just tossed aside as though it's nothing, The Shadow could be a staple film in the ever growing list of great superhero movies. 

The Good:
great special effects that have held up surprisingly well since 1994
The Bad:
all shine and no substance leaves you really wanting more 
The Ugly:
wondering why something similar (if not a remake) hasn't been made, as the source material leaves you aching for something epic

Overall: 6.7/10


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At July 14, 2012 at 8:17 AM , Blogger Bubbawheat said...

I agree, I totally loved the Shadow back when I first watched it, and watching it again recently it held up quite remarkably.

At July 14, 2012 at 9:50 AM , Blogger said...

Somehow I have managed to never see this film. You make it sound as if it could be worth checking out if I can find it streaming somewhere.

I saw you had recently joined the Lamb and I wanted to stop by and say hello, welcome aboard and that I hope to see you on the forums.

At July 14, 2012 at 2:07 PM , Blogger Nick said...

@Bubbawheat, yeah I hadn't seen it before, so I couldn't compare it to the time, but as of how it looks now, it's great.

@3guys1movie, Thanks for stopping by. I've actually been pretty active in the forums (username is Manchub).

As for The Shadow, it's on Netflix for streaming. That's where I watched it.

At July 15, 2012 at 10:39 AM , Blogger said...

Nice user name Nick ;-)

At July 15, 2012 at 10:48 AM , Blogger Nick said...

Thanks lol.


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