16 February 2009 | bob the moo
Has general value thanks to the subjects but the presentation, structure and delivery is poor
In 1993 the Wu-Tang clan erupted out of Staten Island, taking the hip-hop world by storm and creating a super-group with individual artists able to grow out of it. This documentary charts the growth of the clan through periods of loss, in-fighting, business politicking and more.
My interest in this film was a given because Wu-Tang's influence within the modern world of hip-hop is unquestionable, both as a group and as individuals. OK so not all of their output is good but this documentary suggested it would be more about the bigger picture and not a specific album review. The BET logo at the very start is what first gave me reason to doubt how good this would be and indeed it came to pass because this is a really poorly and obviously put together film. The problem is not with the substance of the film so much though, because Wu-Tang's rise is generally of interest but the film doesn't bring that out. Instead we get lots of clips and lots of generalisations for the first half. The second half focuses too closely on ODB for my liking but potentially still could be interesting.
The construction of the film prevents that though, mainly due to the melodramatic and cheesy presentation style that uses rubbish incidental music and slow-motion in the way crime reconstruction shows do. This hurts the material because it immediately feels like this is not a serious film seeking to examine and record so much as it is trying to fill network time. It doesn't help that the narration is flat but it is also damaging that nobody central to the Wu-Tang takes part other than in sections recorded for other purposes and edited together here. OK we get CEO's but we also talking heads credited as "Wu-Tang's mural designer", "childhood friend", Wu-Tang's barber" and "Wu-Tang affiliate", few of which offer a lot of insight. I kept hoping that some of the Wu would show up and give interviews longer than a few seconds but they never do and it suffers as a result.
The good news is that the subjects and their music are interesting enough to hold the attention and fans may find the film to be distracting and engaging anyway but it is hard to ignore how the delivery damages it. A typical BET product then it has general value thanks to the subjects but the presentation, structure and delivery is poor.