Director: Tony Ching
Cast: Xiao Zhan, Li Qin, Meng Meiqi, Tang Yixin, Qiu Xinzhi, Cecilia Yip, David Chiang, Norman Chui, Bryan Leung, Anthony Bao, Chen Liwei
Runtime: 1 hr 41 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Violence)
Released By: Clover Films and Golden Village Pictures
Opening Day: 19 September 2019
Synopsis: JADE DYNASTY is an upcoming Chinese martial arts fantasy directed by Ching Siu-Tung. The film revolves around a young man raised by monks who learns the truth about the death of his parents and begins to succumb to his anger.
The only noticeable name on the poster of Jade Dynasty happened to be Tony Ching Siu-Tung. For the uninitiated, he is the man in charge of choreographing the breath-taking action of such classics like A Chinese Ghost Story, Swordsman 2 and New Dragon Inn. After a long hiatus, Ching is back at the directorial chair, helming a fantasy story that is based on a series of eight novels by Xiao Ding and a cast made up of relatively unknowns (in this region).
Tasked by a master with a blood-sucking bead, Zhang Xiaofan (Sean Xiao) is an orphan adopted by the Qingyun sect after his parents are massacred in a mysterious killing a decade ago. From then on, the happy-go-lucky Xiaofan who is smitten with the beautiful daughter of his master, Ling-er (Tang Yixin), has spent his time in the sect cooking for his fellow elders and master rather than spending time fine-tuning his martial-arts skills; that is until one day, his blood-sucking bead is strangely infused with a soul-sucking stick to become a powerful personal weapon for Xiaofan.
Unknowing to him, the evil Demon King clan has long been looking for the bead and the daughter of the Demon King, Bi Yao (Meng Meiqi), is sent to retrieve the stick for his father. At the same time, Xiaofan is thrown into the sect’s martial-arts tournament and he must fight against the sect’s most powerful disciple, Lu Xueqi (Li Qin). By this point, it is clear that the writers have successfully setup Xiaofan as an interesting protagonist to follow although the villains are somewhat forgotten until much later.
But however, before Jade Dynasty reaches its climax, you need to sit through more than 80 minutes of exposition that includes lame humour and pointless proceedings, stuff that fails to connect the audience to characters like Lu Xueqi and Ling-er. Even the so-called various grand masters of the sect have little screentime other than appearing onscreen to spout laughable one-liners. And probably veterans like Cecilia Yip, David Chiang, Norman Chu and Leung Ka-Yan are simply doing Tony’s a big favour.
For a man whose resume includes many of HK outstanding martial-arts epics, Ching disappointingly uses so much visual effects in Jade Dynasty that all his past superb wireworks are nowhere to be seen. Instead of employing CG to enhance all the gravity-defying old-school moves, the handling of the action choreography is mostly left to the CG department instead. The action is often passionless and displayed without much creativity, grace and often substituted by CG elements. Since it takes Tsui Hark years to perfect his balance of CG, fluid action choreography and storytelling in Detective Dee as compared to his disastrous The Legend of Zu, we must admit we have to go easy on Tony Ching.
The only memorable and seamlessly well-done sequence has to go to the introduction of the various members of the Demon King sect. The creepy puppet master, the ninja-like warrior who could manipulate his body to suck in his opponents, the wild boar warrior and the Demon King who transformed from a horse carriage to a human are examples of how CG effects and old-school martial-arts should be employed.
But complicated by the fact that it’s based on eight books/serial novels, Jade Dynasty ends with a cliff-hanger instead of concluding the plight of Xiaofan. Who is Zhang Xiaofan? Is he the guy who is destined to end all evil and reunites the good or is he the ultimate evil demon? Will the box-office of Jade Dynasty be profitable enough to continue the epic story? It's kind of hard to rate this Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain meets Louis Cha fantasy martial-arts flick at this point. For the most part, it’s drowned in a pool filled with excess visual effects but you can’t deny it does have its merits. We might have to give Tony Ching a chance and adopt a wait-and-see strategy.
(Remember this is only Jade Dynasty I)
Review by Linus Tee