Despite the persistent negativity from the usual group of naysayers, toxic trolls, and a misogynistic fandom, I remain excited about watching “The Marvels.” The film, which hit theaters on November 10, has already garnered a global opening weekend gross of $110 million, as reported by The Numbers, a film industry data website that tracks box office revenue.
As a lifelong nerd and devoted fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), I opted to skip the opening weekend of “The Marvels.” The superhero fatigue has caught up with even someone as enthusiastic as myself. Instead, I concluded the second season of “Loki” on Disney+ and explored a unique revenge thriller currently in limited theatrical release, starring Emile Hirsch, best known for his role in 2007’s “Into the Wild.”
Directed by Mick Davis, “Walden” unfolds as a captivating character study of Walden Dean (Hirsch), a mild-mannered court reporter in a small Southern town. This grim psychological drama teeters on the edge of tragedy and dark comedy, challenging audiences with gratifying cathartic moments that defy fundamental aspects of the rule of law.
Walden Dean, an exceptional courtroom stenographer, leads a seemingly simple life in a small Southern town. Viewers quickly realize he exhibits neurodivergent behavior, on the verge of breaking a world record in stenography. However, Walden’s commitment to his work goes beyond the courtroom, as he meticulously keeps records of every case, categorizing them as “innocent” or “guilty” in his home. His distress grows from the imperfections in the legal system that allow guilty individuals to evade justice.
The film takes a dark turn when Walden is diagnosed with a brain tumor. Despite the operability of the tumor, he avoids immediate surgery, citing a busy schedule and the potential behavioral changes associated with his condition. Simultaneously, Walden discovers a man previously sentenced to death for a gruesome crime against his daughter has been released due to a prosecutorial error. Walden’s suppressed anger resurfaces, triggering a dramatic shift from passive acquiescence to determined vigilantism.
As Walden embarks on a path of bloody retribution while maintaining an outwardly calm demeanor, viewers gain insights into his persona through relationships with colleagues and friends. Parallel to the main narrative, detectives Billy Kane and Sally Hunt investigate a series of child abductions, leading to an unexpected twist that intertwines the two storylines.
“Walden” presents itself as a gritty revenge film with an unconventional avenger. Walden’s likable exterior, coupled with his sensitivity and benevolence, earns viewers’ sympathy. Simultaneously, the film delves into the dark humor inherent in Walden’s character, adding complexity to his weirdness. Set against a Southern Gothic backdrop, “Walden” offers a unique perspective on vigilantism, exploring the moral ambiguity that festers as Walden takes justice into his own hands.
Embraced within this Southern Gothic context, “Walden” presents an intriguing take on vigilantism. The protagonist, Walden, is a likable character who elicits sympathy from the audience. Despite his sensitivity and unconditional benevolence toward those deserving, he succumbs to the simmering rage beneath the surface, seeking vengeance when the legal system he admires falls short of his expectations.
In essence, “Walden” unfolds like a superhero origin story, albeit without superpowers. Walden’s sudden disregard for law and order when it aligns with his purpose introduces moral ambiguity, a theme skillfully maintained throughout the film. There is no explicit acknowledgment that Walden, much like the legal system, is fallible.