A cross between wuxia pian, romance, and shades of The Incredible Hulk make up this very interesting film from the Academy Award-winning cinematographer of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
In seven days, on the 15th day of the seventh month, the millennium will arrive, meaning the lost spirits of innocent people will be reborn and peace will be brought back. However, the Demon King plans to summon his top monsters to Earth in order to cause chaos. The deity Zhang Daoxian has offered to volunteer his services to the city of Hu and has found the perfect warrior to carry out this mission.
Zhong Kui is a respected demon slayer, whom Zhang had trained, has him steal the Dark Crystal from the Demon King. Kui learns that as long as he is in possession of the Dark Crystal over the next seven days, the souls of the innocent will be reborn and thus, bring peace again to the city of Hu. The Demon King, angry at what had transpired, unleashes his greatest weapon, a snow demon named Que Xing, who unbeknownst to her, wxas one Zhong Kui’s love three years ago. Will Zhong Kui convince his once beloved to be with him once again, or will Que Feng have no other choice but to kill Zhong Kui to regain the Dark Crystal.
This is quite an interesting film that comes from the minds of six screenwriters, including co-director Zhao Tianyu, and is executed by the team of Zhao and Peter Pau, who won the Academy Award for his impressive cinematography in 2001 for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The result of the film is a very interesting film that will please fans of the romantic wuxia pian as well as possibly fans of superhero films with that aspect proving to bring curiosity for the viewer.
Chen Kun plays the lead Zhong Kui, who is seen as someone who is just doing his job as a demon slayer, but knows it will take more than just his heart to destroy the demons. This is where our superhero comes in. Given a mystical fan, Zhong Kui drops some blood onto it, which turns him into a demon that may be the key to destroying the Demon King and thus, protect the Dark Crystal. The demon form of Zhong Kui looks like a cross between The Incredible Hulk and Devilman, Go Nagai’s character that spawned an anime and a live action film.
Li Bingbing, who delved in wuxia before with playing the White Haired Witch in The Forbidden Kingdom, plays the titular Snow Girl. She is a demoness that can be best described as Disney’s Frozen’s Princess Elsa kicked up a number of notches. Her demon form looks like an ice form of Fantastic Four’s Human Torch. Disguised as a dance troupe, each of the young women are actually demonesses that take the forms of different animals.
The only flaw in the film is the visual effects, which was done by an international alliance consisting of a Korean FX company, a Chinese FX company, and WETA, who were responsible for films like Lord of the Rings and The Hunger Games. While some of the visuals look impressive, especially backgrounds due to Pau’s cinematography, others are a hit and miss combination. At times, both the Zhong Kui demon and the Snow Girl demon look good, but other times, they don’t look exciting and could result in a loss of interest. Thankfully, this isn’t the case. Even the action sequences, choreographed by Jacky Yeung, bring in a nice flavor that can only define the wuxia pian genre.
Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal is not the best of the best when it comes to wuxia pian, but it is an entertaining film that is driven by Chen Kun and Li Bingbing, and their love story-turned-rivalry. While some of the visual effects aren’t totally impressive, they ultimately make their impact and help makes this a watchable film.
WFG RATING: B-
A Desen International Media/Beijing Enlight Film/Wanda Media/China Film Co. Ltd. Production. Directors: Peter Pau and Zhao Tianyu. Producers: Ann An and Peter Pau. Writers: Zhao Tianyu, Qin Zhen, Shen Shiqi, Li Jie, Raymond Lei Jin, and Eric Zhang. Cinematography: Peter Pau. Editing: David Wu.
Cast: Chen Kun, Li Bingbing, Winston Chao, Yang Zishan, Bao Baier