Man in Black Review: The Shadow (1994)

The attractive and decadent playboy becomes single-minded crime fighter at night, running a big city by the power of fear and with the help of his sidekick, facing his greatest opponent when he faces off against an immortal enemy who respects his abilities but has no intentions of letting him win. What? No! Why would you think I was talking about Batman? This is 1994’s The Shadow.

While the Netflix description may sound like nothing other than a complete Batman rip-off, The Shadow holds its own as, if not the most completely original movie of all time, a fairly unique urban fantasy movie that somehow gives off a Science Fiction vibe. And if anything I’m saying strikes you as off, let me just say that I’m ignoring The Shadow‘s history- because I think the movie holds its own without me doing the research required to call it a comic book movie.

The Shadow opens off with Alec Baldwin beginning his training as a Jedi under the adviser from Mulan, which serves as penance for the acts committed during his lifetime. For some reason, this makes him immortal. I guess he learned that technique a little better than Yoda did.

We move on to modern day, which is circa 1940 in this case, where Baldwin is now Bruce Wayne and he’s on a date with his uncle, who lambasts him for constantly being late and for having no hobbies or anything else in his life. Not sure if this is supposed to be exposition or what, but it becomes a running gag in this movie as they have this conversation every time they’re on screen together, before being interrupted by the film’s love interest, who is the daughter of a scientist apparently working on the Manhattan Project. But really, the only reason we care about this guy is his assistant.

Tim Curry.

That’s right, Tim Curry is in this movie, and it’s the first time I’ve ever seen him as an actual person. Hearing his voice coming from an unmasked, unmade-up face that’s intended to be completely normal is actually completely disorienting.  (Cue either “Sweet Transvestite” or “a-HA a-HA” clip from IT here.)  I’m pretty sure this character was written completely straight, too, until Curry got involved. When you listen to the dialogue, it’s almost as though… anybody who’s not Tim Curry or Jim Carrey would have played this character in a completely different way.

Tim Curry is the second rate villain, but who’s the Big Bad? John Lone plays Shiwan Khan, a descendant of Genghis Khan who apparently has the same origin story as The Shadow, except that he killed Chi Fu and mastered his living weapon. He’s apparently more powerful than The Shadow- in the beginning.

Until the Shadow becomes The One. No, seriously, he becomes Neo. That telepathy that they both had (and so did the love interest, for some reason)? Well, it becomes telekinesis at the end, just in time for The Shadow to win. Add that to the black clothing he often wore, his ability to influence his environment as though it was irrelevant to him, and the fact that his enemy could seek him out because clearly neither of them are normal people in this world, and is it any wonder when Penelope Anne Miller was surrounded in flame in a dream where I expected her to fly into the air?

Perhaps because of its superhero origins, perhaps because it plays with what would have been new or unthought of technology when the origin radio serials were being played, this movie revolving entirely on obvious Star Wars references and unintentional references to a film that would be released five years later gives off a Science Fiction vibe despite being composed entirely of Fantasy elements in a historical setting. Between Alec Baldwin’s humor and Tim Curry’s being Tim Curry, the humor of the film was a little much for me, but not a whole lot much, and probably slightly more in line with the average viewer than mine is. All together, I enjoyed the film, and would recommend it to any fans of any of the movies I’ve mentioned. Just don’t expect it to be as good as any of them.


2 thoughts on “Man in Black Review: The Shadow (1994)

  1. What an interesting perspective. I’ve been a fan of Tim Curry for years although he’s strictly a B-Movie actor with a A-Lister voice. The movie was watchable and faithful to the original series in many ways.

    You’re right about all the standard movie tropes the film uses and because f that it deserves the mediocre rating.

  2. Thanks for the comment!

    I think you hit the nail on the head about the standard tropes; it’s a fairly enjoyable movie, but give it another year and I’ll have forgotten all but the most unique details about it. I think if it weren’t for the dark side of the tone, which I enjoyed, it would have been worthy of closer to a 6/10 than the 7 it ended up with.

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