As a standalone story separate to the series, it’s still a dark experience that can be appreciated as exactly that.
BY JOHN MCDONALD MARCH 12, 2023
Isn’t it just great to see John Luther back on our screens, although this time it’s the big screen – well, that is an option if you do fancy leaving your house, but if not, Netflix is the other option. Neil Cross's Luther became one of the darkest, grittiest, and smartest detective thrillers of the past 20 years, especially in the UK. The series was successful because of its cleverness and the mystery surrounding each episode was magnetic, while also being suspensefully chilling, but one of its biggest factors for success was its realism. Jamie Payne’s Luther: The Fallen Sun falls some way short of its predecessor, not only in quality but in narrative and consistency.
This time around, John Luther (Idris Elba) is back doing what he does best, which is plunging himself into the mind of serial killers while also trying to stay ahead of his own personal sins, and there’s a lot of them. In the same fashion as the series, Luther: The Fallen Sun begins with a crime: a teenage boy goes missing, with nothing but a couple of cars left on the road as evidence – cue John Luther who arrives with his trusty superior Detective Superintendent Martin Schenk (Dermot Crowley) to help solve the case. Unbeknownst to them, the killer is watching from the crowd, a certain David Robey (Andy Serkis). Robey soon establishes Luther as a threat and releases details about his career which sends Luther to prison, locked inside with the people he put away.
With Luther now banged up, which leads to an interlude with its very own Rorschach from Watchmen (2009), “I’m not stuck in here with you, you’re stuck in here with me” moment, and Schenk being forcibly moved into retirement, it gives Robey free reign to carry on his serial killing ways. DCI Odette Raine (Cynthia Erivo) takes up the case while also trying to stop the now escaped John Luther from ruining things – although, we all know he’s the one that gets things done – which leads to a three-way game of cat and mouse where all parties are at risk of implosion. You can’t watch this film without comparing it to the series, it would be impossible not to. So, is it a step up from the famed series? Does throwing more money at it mean that it’s bigger and better?
Luther: The Fallen Sun hoped to be bolder and a lot more brash, with bigger production value as well, but in ticking certain boxes needed for a cinematic counterpart, it lost all the realism that made the original series so excellent. There are holes in this film that leave a lot of questions unanswered; the writing just isn’t as tight and certainly not as creative – and don’t get me started on that cliffhanging ending as well. But what might turn out to be the biggest flaw is the lack of violence; the series was such a visual spectacle at times with its ruthlessness, whereas this film just alludes to the violence a bit more, taking on more of a description-based representation of the carnage instead.
It definitely loses the previous aura that series worked hard to establish, but the film is still a highly enjoyable one, make no mistake about it. The protagonist is as electrifying as ever; still not one to play by the rules, which only adds to the character’s cool persona, and then throw in the dark underbelly of the Big Smoke to intensify things, and it begins to take shape. Andy Serkis is Elba’s equal as the villain of the piece too, even with all that fake hair. There’s a murderous look in his eye, a sinister crack in his voice, and he fits in nicely with the consistency of the franchises complex list of villains. But Cynthia Erivo as DCI Raine is another great addition to the cast, and an extremely welcome presence; competing against the two men right down to the finish line – Raine joins the list of commanding female characters that this franchise has become known for.
Luther: The Fallen Sun might seem cliched and very conventional, coupled by its use of dodgy CGI at various points (Those suicide scenes. That blazing fire. It’s a bit much) but this is still a cool addition to the popular series. It was never going to be as exciting or as well liked as the series, and the creators surely knew that from the beginning, which does offer the film a little bit of breathing room so it can be something of its own accord. And, as a standalone story separate to the series, it’s still a dark experience that can be appreciated as exactly that.