blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Luther: The Fallen Sun (2023, Jamie Payne)

“Luther” show creator and Luther: The Fallen Sun writer Neil Cross started talking about him and Idris Elba doing a Luther movie for at least a decade before Fallen Sun. Like everyone else, Cross assumed the singularly charming, extraordinarily talented Elba would be too busy being a movie star to do another “Luther” TV series. Except, as Cross and most other white people learned in the 2010s, the world’s super-duper racist and Elba, the most obvious James Bond casting pick ever, actually, would never be a movie star.

So they kept doing the “Luther” series, even soft-booting the show a couple times over five series and nine years. The Fallen Sun, which is never called The Fallen Sun onscreen and has zilch to do with the movie itself, takes place after the last series… but retcons a bit. Fallen Sun is more of a spin-off than a sequel to the series, with only Dermot Crowley returning from the show with Elba. The series ended with Elba headed to prison, something Fallen Sun sort of continues, but changing the circumstances and removing the character development Elba had been building since the first series.

Because Fallen Sun’s about Elba doing streaming movie series, not about him doing a TV series. And to prove it’s really a movie, Fallen Sun runs over two hours… which actually just makes it a two-part episode, but I suppose they shoot it in Panavision. Well, Panavision aspect ratio. It’s also director Payne’s first film credit after twenty years of TV work.

Cynthia Erivo plays the no-nonsense new copper on Elba’s old beat. Erivo’s fine, but she’s got very little to do. But she does add some movie cred. More than villain Andy Serkis, who’s a Bond villain serial killer. Everything’s very elaborate but also very disturbing, even though Payne can’t manage a single suspenseful sequence in the picture. Not when Elba’s fending off his fellow inmates in prison or when Serkis is stalking teenage girls. As far as suspense goes, Sun’s inert.

It’s also full of pointless subplots to pad out the run time. Cross stuffs in a bunch of filler to make up for Elba not having a character to play anymore. His backstory doesn’t matter, and thanks to the retcon, having him go to prison isn’t even necessary. Sun goes to multiple unnecessary places, but thanks to Elba, it basically works out.

And it’s got an astoundingly dull Serkis performance too. Serkis is better than it seems like he’ll be initially, but only because he threatens to be godawful but just ends up one-note. Late fifties Serkis is less believable as a criminal mastermind than as a forty-something (which makes me wonder who Cross originally envisioned in the part). Serkis is also an inexplicably capable knife fighter; Sun establishes Elba—while not “Black Superman”—can fisticuff his way through a prison riot, only for unassuming Serkis to out-street fight him.

Why? Because it’s a movie, remember? So it can’t be over at the hour mark.

The supporting cast is all solid, though dippy copper Thomas Coombes is too dippy, and it reflects poorly on Erivo’s character, who ought to be better at her job. Elba’s only an impressive detective because he’s doing better work than Erivo and her team. Unfortunately, neither Elba, Erivo, or Crowley (who gets a bunch to do) ever quickly figures out the clue; they need that two-hour runtime.

Writer Cross also has an annoying device where one character tells another character a secret, which allows the second character to act on it without the audience knowing what’s about to happen. It’s exposition doubling, and the only time it needs to pay off–the lethargic third act—it noticeably doesn’t.

It also doesn’t really matter because it’s Elba mesmerizing his way through the silliness. Sure, it’s grotesque, cruel silliness, but still. It’s silly plotting.

I really hope they do more.

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