Candyman: Well intended, less so delivered
Over the weekend, I was finally able to catch both Bernard Roses' 1992 Candyman, before following it up with the 2021 followup of the same name directed by the gifted Nia DaCosta. I think that it is important to state how gifted DaCosta is as a filmmaker, and that she does do her best with pushing the story forward while telling important social messages- because although this review may not come off as a positive endorsement for her skills as a filmmaker, that's more so on the content itself and not her work behind the camera.
Candyman is the follow up to the 1992 film, set in the modern day Chicago- Anthony (Abdul-Mateen), and his girlfriend Brianna (Teyonah Parris) move to the now gentrified Cabrini-Green where Anthony becomes obsessed with the urban legend of the Candyman
So before I get too far into what I didn't love about the 2021 adaptation, and the few things I should mention as positives. I better give a few thoughts on its 1992 predecessor that started the journey itself. I admittedly was not a big fan of the original product as well, though that was more so of its content aging poorly and being less scary in 2021 than it likely would have been in 1992. The movie suffered through some terrible pacing problems, and the editing though intended to be messy and confusing, went too far in that direction becoming a mess. One cannot deny the absolute intimidating aura of Tony Todd as the titular villain. He's nearly seductive and charming as he speaks to our lead Helen, drawing the viewer in yet frightening us at the same time. Todd is the 92' movie, and any scares that hold up into the 2020's are thanks to his portrayal.
Now lets get into the 2021 movie and the few things that I should mention as the positives. DaCosta's use of these near puppet style animated figures to explain the legend of what happened with Candyman and Helen in the original is a brilliant way of showing how urban legends change over time, and also a crucial way to revisit the story that started it all. DaCosta has these moments of brilliance which showcases her skills as a filmmaker as she visually drives forward both moments of tension and using camera angles to bring chills to the audiences arms.
She does her best to not fall into a nostalgia bait, and set forth to expand the legend into the future. Giving the story new legs to walk on has to be admired, as so many others would have all but revisited paths that have already been walked in former films.
In the same breath taking the story on its new path just didn't work for me personally, knowing that Todd's Candyman is one of a horde of them felt disappointing in a way because of the screen presence that his titular character had on the original feels throw into the waste bin. The movie spends so much time trying to breath in new life, that everything that happened before either doesn't matter or is hastily thrown in to put it all in the same canon.
The characters aren't very in depth, and Abdul-Mateens character Anthony is not likeable enough to root for, nor interesting enough to root against. Putting the viewers in a weird spot of watching someone that just ends up being not interesting enough to push the story forward. Colman Domingo is thrown in to try and make an impactful ending, but in the end he's rather wasted and his characters intentions never make any sense- nor does it help make the ending work much at all.
The movie has plenty of things it wants to comment and for that I applaud it, but it spends so much time speaking about artistic meanings and nothingness- that it never gets around to leaving a strong message on any of the grounds it set out to tell.