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The Shadow

movie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Shadow

Starring: Alec Baldwin, John Lone
Director: Russell Mulcahy
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 107 Minutes
Release Date: July 1994
Genres: Action, Mystery, Suspense

*Also starring: Penelope Ann Miller, Tim Curry, Ian McKellen, Peter Boyle, Jonathan Winters

Review by Dragan Antulov
1 star out of 4

Comic book superheroes are rather thankless material for contemporary moviemakers. With few exceptions, like Richard Donner's SUPERMAN or Tim Burton's BATMAN, film adaptions of popular comic book serials usually turn out to be utter disappointments or total stinkers (including the sequels of aforementioned films). The Shadow, popular character of 1930s pulp novels and radio serials who had given inspiration to the creator of Batman, is one of those who couldn't escape such fate in its 1994 screen adaptation.

The protagonist of the film is Lamont Cranston (played by Alec Baldwin), New York millionaire with the bloody past of opium smuggler. Long time ago in the Far East a Tibetan monk helped him to see the errors of his ways and taught him psychic skills, including ability to "cloud people's minds". Because of these skills he is virtually invisible and every night he goes on the streets of 1930s New York in order to fight crime and injustice under the guise of The Shadow. Shadow's skills are shared by his archnemesis Shiwan Kahn (played by John Lone) who comes to New York in order to pursue his life-long dream of world domination. His plan is to hold city to ransom with an atomic bomb built by nuclear physicist Dr. Reinhardt Lane (played by Ian McKellen). Shadow does everything in his power to stop him, but his efforts are complicated by scientist's daughter Margot (played by Penelope Ann Miller) who possesses psychic powers of her own.

THE SHADOW, unlike most of the comic book adaptations, has a screenplay that tries to give three dimensions to their two-dimensional pulp characters of the original. The same screenplay, written by David Koepp, somehow manages to include squeeze multitude of the serials' characters and most memorable situations. Production design by Joseph C. Nemec III, aided by CGI, succeeds in creating vivid and beliavable ambient of 1930s New York on L.A. sound stage. However, screenwriting efforts in character development are compromised by bad acting - Alec Baldwin seems rather disinterested in his part, as well as John Lone, who obviously feels uncomfortable in the role of comic book villain (while others, like Tim Curry, turn to unnecessary overacting). The impression is somewhat improved by the charming presence of Penelope Ann Miller which gave some erotic flavour to this film. Unfortunately, director Russell Mulcahy, revered for his work on HIGHLANDER and infamous for his work on the sequel, shows his tendency to base films on non-stop action and cheap pyrotechnics, usually at the expense of the characters and story which probably ended on the cutting room floor. So, THE SHADOW, the movie that could have been another BATMAN, ends like one of those forgettable Hollywood films that gave such a bad reputation to comic book adaptations in general.

Copyright 2000 Dragan Antulov

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