Let’s see if this sounds familiar: good and evil mutants with superhuman abilities and fancy outfits battle each other for supremacy. If this is a new concept to you, then you doubtlessly haven’t seen “X-Men”, read a single comic book, or even heard of their existence. But then you probably won’t be reading this review, so it doesn’t really matter. Nevertheless, with the recent resurgence of Spiderman and The Incredible Hulk, we have seen a recurring theme of the exploration of the humanity behind superheroes. A completely different approach to connect to an audience is to tell the story from the perspective of the everyday people, lacking in special abilities, who get caught in the middle. Imagine for a minute a movie that centered around the ill-fated henchman of Dr. Evil, John Smith, who gets decapitated in the original “Austin Powers”. It does sound a bit ridiculous in that context. But, within the framework of a dramatic animated feature film this refreshing approach works for “Those Who Walk In Darkness”.
In the futuristic world of this film, the wars between mutants have become so numerous and caused the loss of so many collateral lives that the government of the United States has banished all superhuman beings from its soil. Of course, not all of them were so crazy about leaving, so an elite tactical police force was created to dispose of all mutants-good or evil. But, when’s the last time you saw a normal human take out the Hulk or Magneto? It doesn’t happen. Accordingly, you’d expect the turnover in the special police to be high. And it is. Higher even than your local McDonald’s.
All of this changes when Soledad, played by the voice of Lil’ Kim, joins the force. Using a modified gun and bullets of her own creation, Soledad targets the weaknesses of her enemies. For mutants with impenetrable skin, she uses bullets with contact poison. For pyrokinetics, phosphorus ammunition lies in wait. And so on. But, for every mutant she takes out, Soledad makes herself more of a target of their revenge. Things come to a head when Soledad elicits the ire of a seemingly invincible “telepath”. Able to control the minds of anyone who comes within his proximity, the telepath is more than happy to kill indiscriminately to get to Soledad and avenge the death of his angelic wife/significant other. Now a marked woman, Soledad has to find him first. But, even if she does, what good will it do her? Once close, the telepath will force Soledad to turn that special gun on herself. Now that would be an ironic death.
A problem I rarely come across in films is their having too much story, but this is the case with “Those Who Walk In Darkness”. Watching this movie felt like I had walked in during the middle and turned it off just as things were getting going. My first thought was that the movie might be better suited as a book. Then I checked out the bonus material on the DVD. I have seen some extended prologs and epilogs before, but never anything like the 45 pages of text provided in “Soledad’s Diary”. A little more research revealed that “Those Who Walk…” is also a novel. If you’re a fan of this genre or feel left hanging by the movie (or this review), it’s probably worth checking out.
Creator John Ridley explains in the bonus material of this DVD that animation was not his first choice for the film. After trying for some time to make a live action version, he eventually gave up and settled on animation. Ridley cites that an action movie starring an African American woman is too hard a sell to secure funding. Of course, this was before “Catwoman” with Halle Berry came out. But, now that it is out, it’s only going to be a harder sell. Still, a good story will always be a good story regardless of the subject matter, so hopefully we will have a chance to see more films of this sort in the future.