The Shadow Reviews
*Alec Baldwin does really well in the lead role. He manages to be both charming and subtly menacing, especially in scenes where he is using just his voice to scare the villains. This movie made me realize that Baldwin would have made a good Batman if he was ever given the chance.
*Lamont Cranston (aka. The Shadow) is a very interesting protagonist (at least conceptually) because he is a man who used to be an evil individual but is now trying to atone for his past sins by using his own inner darkness (his shadow) to fight evil. It's a nice backstory and the scenes in which Cranston uses his mind-manipulation powers to make people forget things adds nice layers of gray to the story.
*The art direction and dark film noir-ish set designs of 1930's New York are impressive.
*Jerry Goldsmith's score is very good and fits the dark dramatic atmosphere that the film was going for.
*Russell Mulcahy still provides his distinct eye for visuals and clever scene transitions.
*There are some pretty funny lines of dialogue.
*The storyline is very generic and un-eventful.
*It doesn't help that The Shadows origin story is quickly glossed over through the combination of a rushed opening prologue and an ensuing text crawl. The whole affair feels like the second movie in a trilogy because it does the whole "hero fights an evil version of themselves" storyline, which doesn't work when we don't really know our hero. I personally wished this movie had been a "Batman Begins" type storyline to establish Cranston's origin and his early days as The Shadow. That way we would have been able to actually get to know him as a character, grow attached to him and understand his struggle. As it is, Cranston's internal struggles are rarely touched upon. Due to this I couldn't form an emotional connection and this applies to every character in this movie.
*Ian McKellen and Tim Curry are sinfully underutilized.
*There are not too many action scenes involving The Shadow and they are not too impressive.
*John Lone (Shiwan Khan) is entertaining whenever he is sharing dialogue with Baldwin, otherwise Khan sadly ends up feeling like a stock villain. His plan is extremely silly and his final confrontation with The Shadow is extremely underwhelming and baffling.
*Penelope Ann Miller ends up giving the weakest performance as Margo Lane. It doesn't help that some of her dialogue is pretty bad and her line delivery is even worse.
*Some of the instances of CGI are okay (Ex. The dagger) but other times they are pretty creaky.
Overall: This is a movie that seemed to have all the right ingredients: a charming leading man, a supporting cast filled with respected character actors, great set designs, a dark film-noir atmosphere, and imaginative directing. But due to weak action, underdeveloped characters, and an emotionally un-involving storyline, this comic book adaption becomes instantly forgettable.
Like the comic-book heroes he inspires, The Shadow is an urbane city-dweller who maintains a outward persona under which he pursues a ruthless war on crime. His civilian identity is New York City millionaire Lamont Cranston. The "rich man-about-town" was later aped by BATMAN's Bruce Wayne, but in Cranston's case, it was an elaborate hoax to further confound his enemies. In truth, The Shadow is Kent Allard, an ex-WWI spy who faked his death, went to Tibet, and learned mental mysticism. Embittered by trench warfare and espionage, Allard knew well the evils of mankind. Then he met the industrialist Lamont Cranston, a man he so resembled they were constantly mistaken for each other. Knowing Cranston could get him access to social circles he himself could never obtain, Allard moved to NYC, stole Cranston's identity, and used his mysticism to hypnotize anyone who could still tell them apart. He then went about his new life mission--to battle the evil in men's hearts. Sound complex? It should; it's the movie Hollywood DIDN'T make.
When I think of 1930s crime fiction, I don't see flying demonic knives biting off the tips of people's thumbs, nor do I see Mongol warriors strolling down 5th Avenue fully dressed in battle gear. At least The Shadow himself looks cool, aside from inexplicable make-up that psychically "transforms" Baldwin into the long-nosed avenger. I'm even willing to tolerate how he wears a trench coat that looks like a dress. What I'm NOT willing to buy is the hackjob script. It starts in Tibet, where scuz-bag opium lord Lamont Cranston kills his enemies heartlessly. See, right there, I have to ask... why is America's first "superhero" now a druggie? He doesn't look like a morally convicted fascist, he looks like Vinny Appice from Black Sabbath. Anyway, a Buddhist monk abducts Cranston into a Himalayan temple and uses a knife possessed by evil spirits to beat Cranston into submission. He then lamely forces Cranston to fight crime all over the world, empowered by the "beast within." The mystic tells him this is the price for his redemption. Bear in mind, it's all ham-fisted into the first FIVE minutes, so it's clear THE SHADOW has no focus. Is it horror? Suspense? Action? Adventure? Drama? Comedy? It tries to be all these things because the moviemakers have no clue. Originally, the Shadow fought Depression-era crime, political weakness, and financial decay. In 1994, apparently that meant he had to become "accessible to audiences," so Hollywood psychoanalyzed his crimefighting motivations and put its own stupid spin on things. Result? This Shadow's a tortured-soul pagan poster-child for Zen Buddhism who acts like he's got a split personality. One moment he ruefully regrets his past sins, and the next he laughs sinisterly at how much they empower him.
Aside from wonderfully dark music by Jerry Goldsmith (my favorite score, actually), the film's only success is how it approximates 1930s NYC. Other 1990s superhero flicks look staged, but this is wondrous, with lavish nightclubs, immense mansions, and dark alleys. It's really Manhattan, right down to cigarette billboards dwarfing Times Square. Day scenes are overcast, and night scenes are swathed in dark blues, thick fog, and pitch black--IT LOOKS AWESOME! The cast also look their parts, but they never gel because the whole thing's cardboard. Baldwin tries, but his creepy laugh always sounds forced, like he's posing for the camera without understanding the Shadow's psychopathy. More successful is villain Shiwan Khan, a terrorist descendant of Genghis Khan who wants to blow up NYC because he thinks it's his Heaven-sent imperative. (9/11, anyone?) Their showdown should be more thrilling than it is, but then, we're in 1990s territory, when comic book films were made for children taken to theaters by parents who thought that costumed stuff was nonsense. Sad to say, at times THE SHADOW is outright nonsense--on the level of 1997's BATMAN & ROBIN.
Imagine Heath Ledger's Joker fighting crime instead of fomenting it...THEN you'd get a basic idea how intense this could have been. He's a morally provocative figure because he asks us to condone "Dirty Harry" fascism and mocks audiences for thinking the human race can ever be noble or good. In 1994, Hollywood must've been discomfited by that notion, because here, when the Shadow chuckles with malevolent glee and drafts innocent bystanders into his clandestine war on crime, it's silly, not disturbing like it should be. Ah, well. If you want a sampler, "YouTube" the bridge scene where the Shadow makes mincemeat of a mobster, then turn it off and imagine the rest of the film in your head. It's better than the flawed spectacle that follows.
Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows. Some of us know Lamont Cranston from the re-broadcast radio programs from the last century. When in Mongolia/China, Lamont learned his psychic powers and the ability to cloud men's minds to fight crime. Lamont has a shadowy past when he was truly evil, so he knows.
Despite this being a favorite radio, pulp, and comic book character, this movie showed a lot of promise. However, this movie didn't really take off like many of the other superhero movies did. Please don't let the spilled popcorn or the rotten tomato scare you away from this movie.
I thought it was a good movie with some fantastic actors and special effects. The 1930's look and feel was excellent. Lamont's girlfriend, Margo Lane (Penelope Ann Miller) was super hot, especially with those silky, backless gowns. This movie was back when Alec Baldwin was very handsome.
Lamont's nemesis is Shiwan Khan (John Lone), a descendant of Genghis Khan, and remembers Lamont when he was Ying-Ko (Eagles Beak), and opium smuggler and warlord before he was kidnapped and changed by the mysterious Tulku (Brady Tsurutani) who gave Lamont those powers and caused him to use those powers for good.
The movie is tung in cheek and doesn't take itself too seriously, and is filled with some nice humor, not without the help of Jonathan Winters as Wainwright Cranston.
Based incredibly loosely on the serial, but more of a vehicle for early CGI & Special Effects.
It's fun to a degree & easy watching but to me didn't capture the essence of the serial. Penelope Ann Miller wasn't too bad as the dame. Will appeal more to children most probably.
Cool SFx for the time, although it looses it's pacing in the second half
Worth a look