I saw a story on NPR about this new documentary, Wu: The Story of the Wu-Tang Clan. Not only was I surprised to hear it reviewed on NPR (complete with audio clips), I was eager to see a movie that depicted the rise of one of my favorite rap groups.
However, I was sadly disappointed. The movie gets off to a real slow start, and it almost seems like the director is making the movie just to use up stock footage he had from his early days with the Wu-Tang Clan. He has videos of behind-the-scenes stuff in the studio, and clips from the nightlife scene, but they don't really do anything to contribute to the story or the narrative thread of the movie.
Much of the commentary by interviewees is hard to understand, and Subtitles are not an option. The difficulty in understanding the language is a combination of bad audio and unclear ennunciation on the part of the speakers.
We don't get to see a lot of performances. Most of the performance footage shown is from a concert they did in Hawaii. When I think of the Wu, I think of them in NYC, Chicago, D.C. -- on stage in a packed, dark club with a frenzied crowd. Instead, we see the Clan performing on a sunny, open air stage, dressed in Hawaiian t-shirts and sunhats(!), and performing for an all-white audience. This is not the Wu that one normally thinks of, not the gritty urban rap supergroup that we all know and love. Seeing ODB prancing around in a hat that my grandma would wear to a day at the beach just takes away something.
This movie leaves out all the stuff that happened after the group's rise but before ODB (Ol Dirty Bastard) died. It then just abruptly ends. There is no mention of the Wu's ascension to the mainstream, their clothing lines and savvy business ventures, the way they gave back to their Staten Island community by supporting youth groups (and even opening up a Wu-Tang ice cream parlor!), or any of the solo projects that went on, besides a hint of Method Man's stuff and then of course ODB. There is way too much attention paid toward a party for ODB when he was released from prison at some non-descript family restaurant. Again, it was like the director thought, "Wow, I have this home video from ODB's prison release party. Between this and my early footage, I should make a movie!" Aside from that and the Hawaii footage, there isn't a whole lot going on other than commentary from a few people and mostly from Papa Wu, who is a rambling, incomprehensible, and mostly uninteresting interviewee.
The chronology of the movie is pretty much the director speaking of going back to Staten Island, where it all started; the rise of the Clan, brief interviews with them intercut with the Hawaiian concert; the imprisonment and death of ODB; and a few final comments.
The few bright spots were some fun moments with ODB and the other members, particularly where ODB freestlyes while drunk. For the most part though, we don't really get a chance to get a sense of the individual group members.
I just watched this movie this past weekend, and I was so disappointed and ready to move on that I haven't even checked out the special features. Considering that the director of this movie also directed their video for Da Mystery of Chessboxin', I'm hoping that that video as well as others may be included. That, at least, would be one saving grace of this otherwise unremarkable DVD documentary.
Someone should do a more comprehensive documentary that does justice to the greatness that the Wu-Tang Clan once was and still is today.