I've been dreading writing this ever since I watched this movie a few days ago. I wanted to see The Shadow when it came out in 1994 (putting me at the ripe old age of 9), and I'm pretty sure that's the only age when I would have enjoyed this film. I didn't know who Alec Baldwin was back then.
Holy crap. I just took a gander at Russell Mulcahy's (the director) filmography - no wonder The Shadow sucked so terribly. This guy was responsible for the music videos for "Total Eclipse of the Heart," "Hungry Like the Wolf," "Video Killed the Radio Star," and the movie Highlander. I think that pretty much says it all.
The Shadow as a character has been around since 1931. He started as a pulp hero in Detective Stories magazine and eventually came into the realm of radio to entertain children and adults alike. The famous catch phrase from the days of radio was "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!" While you can almost picture a kid in front of a radio listening to that in the 30's, this doesn't necessarily mean that it translates well to the big screen. In the movie, there were MULTIPLE instances where someone asked the Shadow's alter ego how he knew something to be true, and he responded with a wink, saying "I know" in the cheesiest way possible. I understand that they were attempting to give some respect to the origins of the character, but COME ON. It was one of the lamest things I've seen in a movie in a long time. I'm sure 90% of it was Baldwin's delivery, but that's beside the point.
The movie opens with Alec Baldwin as a brutal murderer somewhere in the Orient. The stereotypical sage old man comes along and trains him to become The Shadow: a quasi-superhero who can literally turn into a shadow so people can't see him and who has mind control powers similar to that of a Jedi. (On a personal note, I think this "power" would be better off just to mess with people than actually fight crime, but that's just me.) He comes to the U.S. and takes on a Bruce Wayne persona named Lamont Cranston, fighting crime by night in the 1930's or 40's. This is where it gets outlandish. The last surviving relative of Genghis Khan makes his entrance dressed in Mongolian battle armor and he (gasp!) has comparable mind control powers to the Shadow. Unfortunately for everyone involved, Shiwan Khan (as he's known in the film) is evil. Using his mind-control power, he enslaves people and dresses them up in the same ridiculous Mongolian armor and has them act as guards. He then tries to create an atomic bomb for the purpose of ransoming the world, but requires the assistance of a scientist (Ian McKellen, Lord of the Rings and X-Men) and his sniveling sidekick (Tim Curry, The Three Musketeers, Clue). Of course, the scientist's daughter is a fair maiden who falls in love with the Shadow, blah blah blah. This movie was so predictable it was painful.
I'm fairly certain that none of you would be crazy enough to sit through this filmic monstrosity, so I'll go ahead and give away my favorite parts. I think the best part was that when Shway Khan or whatever his name is comes back, he mind-wipes the entire city into thinking that a massive hotel has vanished into thin air. You're thinking: "Hey Ben, this sounds slightly cool." No. It wasn't. The hotel was hidden in some kind of invisible force field and everyone just kind of ignored the fact that no one in the city could remember when it was torn down. (Another hologram showed a pile of rubble where the hotel "used to be.")
Giving the movie some credit for originality, they did do one thing right. There was a cool kind of comradery between the people whose lives had been saved by the Shadow. After saving a life, the Shadow doles out a red ring for these people to wear and they join a Fight Club-type faction who doesn't speak about their roles but helps the Shadow when needed. The city has a special set of pipes running throughout seemingly every major street where special Shadow-mail gets transferred to the faction by air pressure, but apparently the city officials don't find these extra pipes strange at all. Ah yes, and I almost forgot another personal favorite. While Batman and other dark heroes don't carry weapons, the Shadow has no problem brandishing two .45 pistols and doesn't hesitate to kill people. He's more like the Phantom than Batman. (Author's Note: The Phantom was a pretty awesome movie. I watched it recently, and it stood the test of time. Kind of.)
The clip below showcases one of the most ridiculous feats of physics ever approved for the big screen. I don't know who decided to give this a green light, but they probably are no longer working in Hollywood. (The particular part I'm talking about comes in the last 10 seconds of the clip, so cut ahead if you're not up for listening to the wince-inspiring delivery of Alec Baldwin and the guy who played Ricky Tan from Rush Hour 2.)
This is another one of those movies that has no social value. It doesn't make any commentary on anything other than the obvious "nuclear bombs are bad" speech. It's not clever. The acting is horrendous. The plot is ridiculous, and not in a good way. I actually preferred Terminal Velocity to The Shadow, and that's a bold thing to say. Also, I forgot to mention that when Alec Baldwin turns into the Shadow, his face changes to look like some older man's face. I guess that's something the director could have been trying to convey: be yourself, don't let your superpowers turn you into someone you're not, blah blah blah. Wow, if that's the best I can come up with, then this movie was worse than I thought. "Who knows the evil that lurks in men's hearts?" I do. The evil is that someone approved production on this movie. Until next time...