REview: The Empty Man (2020) | James Badge Dale Deserves Most of the Credit

James Badge Dale

As I say in the header, James Badge Dale deserves a huge amount of the credit for David Prior’s The Empty Man being as good as it is. He’s not only charismatic, but the type of actor that seems to vanish into a role, as opposed to being of the preening, attention-grabbing variety.

Though the problems that the movie has go deeper than any actor could solve that isn’t a screenwriter as well because, while it’s pretty decent and perhaps better than it has any right to be, the movie is structurally very confusing.

The narrative follows three main threads (and while they’re not incompatible the way they’re assembled doesn’t exactly sync), one revolving around a sinister Scientology-like organization, the creation of a tulpa, and another still revolving around a supernatural force that forces teenagers to kill themselves.

I have some theories why the being known as the Empty Man is manipulating young people into doing so, but unfortunately the movie doesn’t clarify the matter, and as quickly as it starts, it stops.

Though the greatest problem with the movie is it’s length.

It runs 2 hours and 17 minutes and I can’t speak for anyone else but when a movie hits the two-hour mark the first thing that comes to mind is does it really need to be over two hours (the second tends to be why am I sitting there watching it).

And this movie shouldn’t be that long. In fact, there’s a prologue that lasts over 23 minutes that provides a basis for what goes on later in the movie though in this context it barely makes sense. If we were talking about a four or five episode series I could see it.

In the context of a movie? Not so much.

And that prologue leads to an even greater problem, namely one of relevance. In fact, that entire opening could have been taken up by 2 or three minutes of expository dialog.

And while normally I’m a huge believer in “Show, don’t tell” if something is not only going to go over 20 minutes, but be of questionable utility, then I say a director should consider losing it.

The Empty Man is based upon a comic from Boom Studios, who have a very interesting, albeit Marvel Studios-like, opening logo.

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