Freaky love story between humans and demons in a Chinese legend. And awful CGI work.
Director: Siu-Tung Ching | Stars: Jet Li, Shengyi Huang, Raymond Lam
Budget: 25 million | Box office: N/A
IMDB: 6.2 | Metacritic: N/A
Blame Jet Li. When you see the guy‘s name in the titles of course you expect a martial arts movie. Or at least some decent sword fighting, gun fighting or any other form of intense physical action. But not the magical solar waves, enormous Buddha hand shields or mantras, protecting from white fox turned ladies demon seduction. Sadly this is the case with The Sorcerer and a White Snake.
Of course, that was the intention, it was shown in the trailer, but even so I hoped for at least some down to earth fight scenes. Too often fantasy martial arts movie creators just wallow in the freedom and go to absolute edge of it. It‘s very slippery path and although there are some decent examples as the famous fight choreographers Woo Ping Yuen (Matrix, Kill Bill, Crouching Tiger – Hidden Dragon, you name it) work in fantasy mash-up Forbidden Kingdom. But usually such fantasy movies are quite a mess.
Sadly this is the case with The Sorcerer and a White Snake. Despite quite a big budget for Chinese production, the CGI effects, especially of the snakes, are on B movie level. Some parts of movie look quite nice, some ideas are really interesting and stand out from the rest of the movie. Some action scenes are enjoyable, but scarce and short. But these snakes… You have to see it to believe how awful they look. I imagine even with freeware software it would be possible to create something more impressive.
It‘s really sad, because the story based on the ancient Chinese legend about a love between a human and a thousand year old snake disguised as a beautiful woman could be really interesting and engaging. But it has to be done with much bigger budget and maybe a bit more down to earth scenes. And if you hire Jet Li please let him have more fights. As it stands, The Sorcerer and a White Snake is a bit interesting at best, with some nice humor touches, few authentic landscape shots and couple of worthwhile action sequences. But you have to really close your eyes for many its faults to try to enjoy it. It‘s a bit strange that it turned out like this, because the director earlier was working with many famous and even epic Chinese and Hon-Kong movies as an action choreographer: Hero, House of Flying Daggers, The Curse of the Golden Flower among others.
As the movie was included in this year‘s Venice festival (I really can‘t imagine such audience watching this) they probably have intention to release it internationally, but I really doubt it will have any success.
On the other hand, at least western CGI companies should not worry about China taking over this area. Yet.