Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?
I was flipping across the dial just now and the last few minutes of “The Shadow” (1994) were on.
I do not claim to be any sort of expert on the character of “The Shadow,” but I thoroughly enjoy listening to episodes of the old radio show:
''The Shadow'' - One of the most popular radio shows in history. The show went on the air in August of 1930.''Who knows…www.oldradioworld.com
The movie was fun in some ways, and I thought Alec Baldwin, then in his leading-man prime, was perfectly cast. But I was disappointed, and the movie also failed to capture anyone’s imagination.
The fun of “The Shadow,” in a weekly radio series or in old pulp magazines, was that he was a crimefighter. He would use his ability to “cloud men’s minds” — which usually meant preventing them from seeing him — to foil some outlandish criminal plot. In real life (at least in the radio series), the Shadow is wealthy Lamont Cranston, who works hand-in-hand with his girlfriend and confidante Margo Lane and who has a secret network of allies whom he can call upon in times of distress. In the pulp magazine, The Shadow’s real name was Kent Allard, and “Lamont Cranston” was just one of several identities he sometimes assumed when working undercover.
We see only a tiny bit of this in the middle of the 1994 movie, sandwiched between an unnecessary origin story and a bombastic, over-the-top supernatural battle royale. For the most part, the movie bypasses the type of crime story that was its predecessors’ bread and butter in favor of a big, splashy special-effects showcase.
The basic structure of the movie is, actually, very similar to “Batman Begins,” which would come along a little more than a decade later. It shows Lamont Cranston traveling to the mysterious East to learn his special abilities, and then returning home, and then eventually battling a figure whom he (and we) met during his training.
But the battle in “The Shadow” is so over-the-top, and so metaphysical, that it bears almost no relationship to the character, or the stories, that created the brand.
That’s one pitfall of the current crop of superhero movies. In order to make a blockbuster — and all superhero movies have to be blockbusters — you have to bypass the story-of-the-week and go straight to world-threatening catastrophe. For some heroes, that’s OK, but in other cases, and “The Shadow” is one of them, it gives us little chance to learn what the hero is really all about.
I also think that origin stories are waaaaay overdone in superhero movies. If the character is not already familiar to the audience, give us his/her origin in a few minutes and then get on with an actual story.
I think “The Shadow” might work better as a TV series, in which we could see the character take on crime figures and spies and what have you, and then maybe — maybe — you eventually build up to the type of metaphysical opponent depicted in the movie, for sweeps weeks or a season-ending cliffhanger.
Unfortunately, no one in Hollywood asked me.