The Wraith: Eyes of Judgment (2005)
Written by Stephen J. Semones and Frank Dirscherl
Directed by Stephen J. Semones
Runtime 50 min.
4 out of 5
I’ll admit I’d been looking forward to this film for a long time and when I finally received a rough cut of the film in the mail from the film’s director, Stephen J. Semones, I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw.
The Wraith: Eyes of Judgment is based on The Wraith comic series and novel created by Frank Dirscherl. It follows the story of Michael Reeve, an honest and dedicated cop who, through an encounter with The Wraith, finds himself adopting the crime fighter’s identity, both as The Wraith and the hero’s alter ego, billionaire Paul Sanderson.
This is the first longer-than-five-minutes independent superhero movie I’ve seen and I have to admit I was quite amazed, and pleased, with what I saw. There was an atmospheric sense to the film that made you believe, yes, you were in The Wraith’s world and you truly felt his presence. There’s a scene right at the opening that does that—an encounter between The Wraith and a robber—setting the tone for the rest of the film.
The special effects were great—the CGI backgrounds, the “eyes of judgment” glowing on The Wraith’s chest, the sweeps of the city—and there’s no complaint from this fanboy here.
The music was amazing. Then again, when getting Emmy-award winning composer Larry Groupé (Apt Pupil, The Usual Suspects, The Cable Guy) to do the music for your film, amazing is something of an understatement. The music was heroic, dark and, to a degree, sad. It really carried a sense of emotion, which helped move the story along. Speaking of music, “Home of Darkness,” sung by Mandi Leigh during the credits, was extraordinary and I wish there was a soundtrack for the film available because of it.
The action and fighting were great and there were some really cool, super-realistic sequences where I jumped in my chair after each punch or kick. There was only one fight sequence that lasted just a few seconds that looked rehearsed.
The story was down-to-earth, human, realistic and didn’t carry the sense of “there’s no way this can happen” like some of the superhero stuff coming out of Hollywood. You honestly believe that this story could happen in real life, which to me is a huge plus as I often wonder if superheroes could ever truly exist off the comic book page.
Having read both the novel and the comic, the major props for the movie go to Stephen J. Semones for directing a flick that was 99% true to source material. Of course a few minor changes had to be made, but that’s film for you. Staying true to the comic or book the story is based off of has been time and again the biggest concern of fans of whatever franchise they happen to love. I’m happy to say Stephen nailed it on this one.
The story ended too soon, in my opinion. It felt like it was the beginning of a movie and didn’t carry a sense of closure that the story was over. All franchises have “origin films” (see Fantastic Four or Spider-man or Batman Begins) and they’re meant to be open-ended, but this one was a bit too open-ended. Though it was intended to pave the way for any future films, I wish there was something a little more finite to the tale. I still wouldn’t let this point hold you back from checking it out. If anything, I was really disappointed it ended so quickly.
The acting, on the whole, was not bad. I understand independent films cannot hire the likes of Tom Hanks or Helen Hunt, but there were a few points where I wondered if the actor was monotonously reading his/her lines versus really saying them with conviction.
All in all, I’d give this film 4 stars out of 5. I’m looking forward to the DVD and all the extra features (and believe me, there’s a ton of them) come September. I’ll be the first in line to get one. You should be there, too.