I’ll drop a bomb of truth on you guys — ever since announcing that ‘Fearless‘ would be his last ‘wushu’ movie back in 2006, Jet Li hasn’t been on my radar at all the last five years. He desperately needs a film that will reignite the spark in his acting that I enjoyed so much growing up. Whether or not The Sorcerer and the White Snake is the film to do that, we will have to determine. Who are the famous actors and actresses in this film? Well, they are Vivian Hsu, Jet Li, Eva Huang, Raymond Lam, and Charlene Choi. It is not simply an ’80s-throwback (a la Wilson Yip’s remake of ‘A Chinese Ghost Story’ earlier this year), but rather a 21st- century treatment using the latest advances in CGI to create some lavish backdrops for the multiple elaborate action sequences. For most of the story he’s up against the female White Snake who has taken human form and fallen in love with a mortal.
Yes, while the booming China film industry can now easily rival its Hollywood counterpart on scale and spectacle, it still has a long way to go when it comes to CG imagery. It was downright terrible in some scenes. The Westerners may find all these antics charming, not so the Asians who have gone through countless versions of the White Snake. This is the equivalent of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ for the Chinese audience, and Tony knows how to push the right buttons to engender a sweet affecting romance between the two leads. Even thought that aspect is effective (and quite powerful), it also is laced with enough overblown romanticism for ten chick flicks.
The spectacular opening sequences of a battle between Fa Hai and the Ice Witch gives us a taste of what is to come. One thing we can be sure of is that Tony Chin spares no expense over the sets and period setting that provide a deliciously rich fantasy just like those of Jame Cameron’s “Avatar” and Tim Burton’s “Alice In Wonderland”. The animation is a bit tacky though, considering how far CGI has gone today. Jet Li fans should probably wait for his next outing – a Hark Tsui film that is sure to have a lot more vital essence than this. We are also in process of interviewing him so we can shed more details on this story as it develops!
But in spite of these shortcomings, this remains a richly entertaining brew of fantasy, romance and CGI- the supernatural world is vividly realized, the romance is surprisingly affecting and the CGI is also commendable by the standards of Chinese cinema. The most obvious issue is the use of cartoony, obtrusive CGI at certain points, which prevents the film from developing a more coherent feel. Jet Li is in fine form and his athleticism is matched by Eva Huang as the White Snake. I just wish the execution on this film was handled with more care. Still, as a fan of Asian cinema I will continue to hold a place for Jet Li in my heart as this film is definitely not a justifiable welcome-back vehicle for him. Still, The Sorcerer and the White Snake deserves to be seen by his fans- even if it may not be his best work.