Five years after they originally appeared, the Warriors of Virtue return in a second adventure that changes course quite a bit, but proves to be a fun film in the vein of films like The NeverEnding Story.
After overcoming his disability, sixteen year old Ryan Jeffers is now a wushu competitor in China for an upcoming tournament with his best friend Chucky. He begins to have dreams of Tao, a mystical land he had visited a few years ago. When one day, he stumbles upon a building with paintings of his old friends, the Warriors of Virtue, he decides to check out the building. Suddenly, Ryan finds himself back in Tao in a time of its greatest danger.
Dogon is an evil warlord who has plans to take over Tao. He has taken the medallions of the Warriors with the exception of Chi, who has taken the form of the mysterious Yasbin. Having been many years in Tao, the Warriors have now taken a more human form as opposed to their kangaroo-like form. With the help of Queen Amythis, Ryan is now Tao’s only hope for survival, but when he learns Chucky has come to Tao and is forced to give up Chi’s medallion to Dogon for Chucky, he must find a way to stop Dogon before Tao ends up in complete darkness.
The Law Brothers, who created the original characters, and Michael Vickerman, who co-wrote the original screenplay, bring back the titular warriors of the film. However, many will feel disappointed in the fact that they are no longer the kangaroo-like warriors that made the first film very special. While the story indicates that hundreds of years have passed in the world of Tao, the Warriors of Virtue have now taken human form and are now played by actors Wang Wei, Li Baocheng, Sun Jianlong, Guan Shuntian, and Liang Ying. Their dialogue was obviously re-dubbed by American actors.
The central character of Ryan Jeffers also returns for this film. Now played by Australian actor Nathan Phillips, we learn that he has kept up with martial arts, concentrating on wushu. Under the training of the film’s stunt choreographer, he performs well in his combat scenes when he is not doubled. Nina Liu plays Queen Amythis as a ruler who thinks at first, she doesn’t need anyone, but soon learns she cannot save her world alone. The villain, Dogon, is somewhat of a clone of original villain Komodo, but the late Kevin Smith (not Silent Bob but an Aussie stuntman who died shortly after filming in a freak accident in China) performed rather well for this film.
Zhang Jinghua was in charge of the film’s action choreography. This is where the film improved from the original film. In the original, there was too much of an undercranking and quick cutting style that sometimes had made it hard to see. In this film, there is some nice “wire-fu” mixed in with some nice kung fu and wushu skills that are easier to see thanks to the collaboration of Zhang, cinematographer Zeng Nianpeng, and editor Cindy Clarkson.
Warriors of Virtue 2: Return to Tao is not completely a bad sequel, but it would have been nice to see the kangaroo warriors in the original film return. Yet on the flip side, the fight scenes are not nauseating and are easier on the eye. Worth at least a rental.
Miramax Films presents an International Film Group production in association with Crawford Productions Pty. Ltd., WOV2 Productions, and Film Brokers International. Director: Michael Vickerman. Producers: Bruce Gordon, Li Xiaowan, Tom Parkinson, Seth Willenson, Forrest Sloan Wright, and Nick McMahon. Writer: Kentucky Robinson; story by Robison, Rex Piano, and Dennis K. Law; based on the characters created by Chris Law, Jeremy Law, Ron Law, and Dennis K. Law. Cinematography: Zeng Nianpeng. Editing: Cindy Clarkson.
Cast: Nathan Phillips, Kevin Smith, Nina Liu, Shedrack Anderson III, Wang Wei, Li Baocheng, Sun Jiaolong, Guan Shuntian, Liang Ying, Brandon Lin, Zhu Wang, Li Yadong, Zhao Shikang.