I took a break from my burst of Soviet SF films over the weekend to watch yet another Chinese Tomb Raider movie with SF overtones (see my reviews for Time Raiders and Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe).
Well, maybe that doesn’t quite sum it up, but it certainly starts out that way, with a team of explorers breaking into a trap-filled tomb which contains the lost secrets of the ancients. Mind you, this is the amped-up, videogame-style ancient tomb with some of the most bizarre (and unbelievable) – if cool – death traps imaginable. Gotta love the sliding tile game trap, the deadly mirror, the lethal pinbox and the giant keyboard.
In fact, while this may very well be China’s first all Computer Animated film (and, curiously, their first film limited to an over 18 audience, for no particular reason other than some fairly mild violence), it looks very much like the cut scenes from some videogame.
Supposedly, this film is set in a distant, future world where “the gods'” science is now lost and forgotten, as is most of our modern technology. While we are told there is some perfectly good scientific explanation for all the incredible powers the villain, Wushen, stole from the tomb, it frankly looks far more like the supernatural (not that this stops the filmmakers from dropping in lots of familiar modern landmarks and product placements, just to show us this really is in the future.). But of course it can’t be supernatural. No, not even a little. After all, the Chinese government is adamantly opposed to even the slightest hint of the supernatural.
Well, except in some epic fantasy set in some mythical past.
And then there are all the other races which supposedly have evolved since the gods went away ten thousand years ago, most of which look quite dramatic – if not necessarily very convincing.
However, the sequence involving the “fruit tribe” is just absurd, no matter how lovely their green-pea dragon flies might be.
Okay, the figures look awkward, the faces of the human characters simply aren’t all that expressive, and the film seems to think that dumping lots of barely differentiated characters into the mix makes it all more exciting.
However, there is a certain amount of spectacle, a moderate amount of wild-eyed design, and a big stone giant.
The problem is that there just isn’t much more than that.
Oh, well. Let’s just hope that China’s “first” SF film, the upcoming Dead End, will break this “curse” once and for all, and finally give us a Chinese SF film that’s more than just runaway effects and an excuse to cover up for making a fantasy film.
It won’t be easy.