Since The Phantom revisit went so well I thought The Shadow could be another tiny treasure. Well, it ain’t. The script is perhaps the main culprit (David Koepp (Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull)) with a weak villain, muddled evil scheme, lack of action, intrigue and horrendous dialogue. Of course, it doesn’t help that the acting is bland (except for maybe Tim Curry (Muppet Treasure Island) who plays a henchman) and the directing isn’t anything special (which is surprising because I dig some of Russell Mulcahy’s other work like Ricochet and The Real McCoy).
I like the production design though. The very exaggerated Art Deco style is nice visually but isn’t worth checking out the movie for alone.
The thing is it feels like there isn’t enough of The Shadow himself here. There’s plenty of his alter ego, Lamont Cranston, where Alec Baldwin really shines in a helluva bad performance. Sure, I already mentioned the script is crap but Baldwin and every other actor compound the problem by hamming it up in the worst possible way. And now that I think about it The Shadow is actually in this a fair amount. It’s that most of this movie is so forgettable that it feels like the title character is too absent.
Like The Phantom The Shadow is sort of a messy character with abilities that he doesn’t use to their full potential, guns that he only fires as a last resort and he has a whole army of civilian agents at his disposal even though, just like any other super hero, he conceals his identity from the world. That’s a little contrary if you ask me. He has a cool name, look and super powers but at the same time he doesn’t stand out. Maybe it’s that one of his trademarks is he laughs manically (even though he’s the hero), or maybe it’s that he relies on too many other people to help fight crime (it seems like every other person in NYC is a Shadow agent), or maybe it’s that he doesn’t have a neat base of operations like so many other comic book characters (they don’t show it here at least), or maybe ok I’ll stop. You get the point. It’s a combination of a bunch of shit that doesn’t add up for me.
My favorite part of the picture is when Lamont rips off his own face like it’s a rubber mask. He sticks his fingers underneath his skin, starts pulling and it looks really great. This is probably the strangest and edgiest part of the movie.
Bottom line is aside from that one face tear scene, there isn’t anything all that interesting here. I think The Shadow card might’ve been played too early. He seems like he would be a better fit with the darker and more serious tone that we have today in comic book films. It’s actually kind of interesting that this version is very effects heavy so the impression is even stronger that they should reboot this guy.
Unless you’re a big comic book movie person or Tim Curry fan I’d say skip it.