Emperor And The White Snake (Cert 12)

1 Disc (Distributor: Metrodome) Running Time: 93 minutes approx.

In a world where demons run havoc, Fa Hai (Jet Li), a sorcerer from Jinshan Temple is on a mission to ensure demons don’t interfere with the human world. One day, a herbalist Xu Xian (Raymond Lam) is in the mountains searching for some herbs when he accidentally falls into the lake below. This is witnessed by Susu (Eva Huang), the White Snake demon in her human form, who rescues Xu Xian, reviving him with a kiss which transfers some of her vital energy into him. After meeting again at a local festival they fall in love and get married. When a strange plague hits the local village Xu Xian creates a remedy which Susu secretly adds some of her vital energy to. However when Fa Hai, senses Susu’s vital energy in the remedy he sets out to capture her which sets off a chain of events destined to leave everyone suffering severe consequences.

The basic story for this 3D film – originally titled The Sorcerer And The White Snake in China – is an old Chinese myth which has taken on many different variations over the centuries. Director Tony Chin has clearly been inspired by the many recent CGI hits from Hollywood such as Avatar to bring this story to life on the big screen. Unfortunately China has a long way to go to come close to rivalling Tinsel Town in the CGI department. Some of it is pretty good – the opening fight between Fa Hai and the Snow Harpy (Vivian Hsu) has some spectacular moments in it. The renderings of many of the demons however are not so great – the snakes are rather unconvincing as are the other animals which make up Susu’s family (a rabbit, turtle, mouse, etc). Not all of the fighting effects work so well, most notably the watery devastation in the big finale. But when it works it is acceptable enough.

The script is fairly simplistic but the idea is obviously to keep this as a visual spectacle to entice family (and thus much larger) audience. In one silly scene designed purely for laughs, when Susu takes Xu Xian home to meet her family, they exhibit their demon personas whilst in human form (the mother acts like a rabbit, the father talks slowly and has a huge shell on his back, etc) yet neither snake sisters do this. Consistency anyone?

Jet Li apparently was conned into making this film after being assured he wouldn’t have to fight then director Ching added a load of fights to the script. Ever the pro Jet equips himself with his usual grace and rapid fire flair in the action scenes although Ching must have wondered if Jet would kick his head off for this ruse.. Eve Huang puts in an impressive turn in her first lead role as Susu, while the supporting cast includes the fragrant Charlene Choi (who desperately needs to take a heavy dramatic role to stop being typecast as the giggling young fawn since she turns 30 this year) as Susu’s sister Green Snake and Wen Zhang as Neng Ren, Fa Hai’s disciple who not only falls for Green Snake but becomes a bat demon after being bitten by one.

An entertaining and visually pleasing – if occasionally iffy looking – effort (although the BluRay transfer is sweet) which may have set its sights a little too high.

Recommendation? Don’t take it too seriously and don’t be too disappointed if David Coverdale doesn’t show up either!

Ratings –  ***

Man In Black

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