out of 4
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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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