Kung Fu Traveler (2017)

(aka, Kung Fu Cyborg)

This one starts off really well:  an unstoppable alien invasion, an army of robots valiantly resisting it but slowly losing, and a young general who is a master of the martial arts whose Kung Fu moves are the only effective weapon against the aliens.

So, as this is a Chinese film, the obvious solution is to send a robot back in time where it can learn the General’s Southern Style Kung Fu, which can then be downloaded to all the robots.

Oh, and it has a week to become a Master of the style.  No pressure.

Naturally, it has been designed in the General’s likeness, and, naturally, the girl responsible, who has a crush on her married superior, decides to go back with it.

At which point, it becomes a more or less familiar Kung Fu epic, with our robot hero going to great lengths to convince the Master to take on a new student.  And maybe finding love.

Eventually the aliens do get back in the game and we have some epic Wire-Fu fights and a huge climactic battle before our heroes can save mankind.

The set-up here is outrageous fun, built around one of those absurd and wacky notions Hollywood would never touch.

However, once it returns to the nineteenth century, the film does become more routine for a while, and visits a lot of very familiar territory from a lot of Kung Fu films.  In fact, someone trying to master Kung Fu so he can return home and save everyone from some enemy or other would probably describe at least a third of all Kung Fu movies.  At least.

Apparently, there is a sequel, in which the Southern Style Kung Fu isn’t enough to defeat the aliens, so they have to send another robot back to learn Northern Leg Style.

I guess they didn’t have anywhere else left to go.

There is also one rather nice, Asimovian touch here, when we learn what happens when a Three-Laws robot breaks the first law.  Now that’s a fail-safe!

I enjoyed this one, but I’ll admit that I enjoyed the opening far more than all but a few moments of the rest of the film — But that is because, at the very end, the film leaves us with a stunning moment which is by far the best in the whole movie.

A strange thing about this one, however, is that it is also known as Kung Fu Cyborg, which is the title of a Chopsockey comedy also known as Metallic Attraction.

But I suppose it is such a simple and obvious title that it will undoubtedly get used over and over and over again…

After all, you never know when we’ll need a robot who knows Kung Fu to save mankind again.

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