Written by By El Puerquito Magnifico
Wu: The Story of the Wu-Tang Clan tells the story of the rise, fall, and eventual rebirth of the Wu-Tang Clan, one of the most successful hip-hop groups in history. It follows them from their humble beginnings as kids in Staten Island watching kung-fu movies to the height of fame and power as rappers, record producers, actors and major motion picture composers.
The impact of the Wu-Tang Clan cannot be overstated. The simple fact that the group had nine MCs is amazing in and of itself, to say nothing of their dominance of the industry, brought about by their unique deal with Loud Records which allowed each member of the group to sign with a different record label for their solo releases. From clothing stores to video games to nail polish, the Clan branched out into many different avenues of business, each one of them successful.
But success has its price, as this film documents. Internal struggles within the group and personal problems essentially dissolved the Clan. It seemed that their egos got the best of them as rivalries and feuds made enemies out of former friends. Struggles with personal demons led to the incarceration and eventual death of founding member Russell Jones aka Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Much of the film is dedicated to ODB’s problems and acts as something of a tribute to this often misunderstood but immensely talented individual.
The film features interviews with friends and family as well as never-before-seen performance footage from the early days in clubs to sell-out arena crowds. The impact of the group is underscored by this amazing footage. The crowds at these shows are so diverse: seemingly people of every color and culture loved the Wu-Tang Clan and at several times throughout the performances, it would seem that the crowd is the MC. They know every single word to every song. It’s almost like a rally or a revival meeting. There’s something almost religious about these events and the power comes through on film.
While Wu is probably the best documentary on the group I’ve ever seen, there’s a simple reason for that fact: it’s the only documentary on the group I’ve ever seen. The downfall of this film is that while it touches on nearly every important aspect of the group’s history, it never really gets in-depth. It grazes the surface of many events, but never really delves into any of them, with the exception of the death of ODB. There are lots of interviews with producers, relatives and friends, but the majority of the interviews with actual members of the Wu-Tang Clan are ones that have been seen before on MTV or BET and are several years old.
It’s not that the film isn’t informative; it simply isn’t informative enough. Not enough for me, at least. Don’t get me wrong, I’d definitely recommend this movie to any fan of the group, but I have to admit that I was left wanting more. The cover of the DVD package states that this is an authorized film, and part of me has to wonder if that is part of the problem. I got the feeling that because the director is a close friend to the Wu-Tang Clan, perhaps he did not delve as deeply or as intimately into certain matters as he could have. Not that I was looking for a tawdry history of the group, but I did feel like this film pulled its punches a bit. There’s more information on the Wu-Tang Clan to be found on Wikipedia than in this movie. On the other hand, we live in such a tabloid culture these days, maybe it’s best to simply take a look at a group of artists and applaud them for what they’ve done rather than rake them over the coals and expose their darkest secrets.
This DVD includes extended versions of some of the interviews seen in the film as well as the music video for “Protect Ya Neck”, the debut single that started it all.