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  Publicity Stills of "Legend Of The Sea"
(Courtesy from GV)

In Mandarin with English Subtitles
Director: Benjamin Toh
Voice Talents: JJ Lin, Jin Sha and Lin Yu Zhong
RunTime: 1 hr 18 mins
Released By: GVP
Rating: G

Opening Day: 7 June 2007

Synopsis :

Set at the dawn of time, a mighty dragon rules over weather and water with the mandate of Heaven. Overlord of rain and the seas in the mortal world, the Dragon King of the Eastern Sea reigns supreme in his palace under the waves.

Main character, Draco the Little Dragon Prince, son and heir to the throne of the Dragon King, is playful and rebellious. In a moment of folly, he steals the Luminous Pearl, the ruler's treasure and source of his power, to play with it. He is entangled by the evil octopus Ocho – the king's archenemy – who schemes to grab the Pearl and the power it holds.

Threatening the prince, his father and all whom he holds dear, Ocho commands General Hermit Crab who leads a fearsome army of swordfish, to attack the palace, and his hammerhead shark henchmen, Hammer & Anvil, to hunt down Little Dragon.

Thus begins the little dragon's undersea journey of discovery and redemption to save his father and kingdom, with his friends, Sam the squid, Ping the puffer fish, Star Lee the kungfu-fighting starfish and Museum the all-knowing clam. Also on the his side are the wise Lobster, his tutor and adviser to the king, and the Dragon King’s prawn army led by General Crab.

Movie Review:

Cubix International provided Singapore's first 3D animation film with Zodiac: The Race Begins, and in my personal opinion, it was one of the worst movies of that year, genre-wise and otherwise. Despite having heavyweights for the voice talents, the voice direction seemed more like a liability especially when they fail to deliver. It's one thing being one with the characters you're portraying, and another just trying to read from the script in a deadpan manner. The list of flaws goes on, and one of the major booboos is the weak plot, nevermind that it was adapted from classic folklore.

You would imagine that things would have improved given the lessons learnt from that dismal effort, but sadly, the same mistakes get replayed a second time round. I'd like to give this movie the thumbs up for effort, but seriously, in the animation genre these days, with audiences spoilt by the Disneys and the Pixars, Legend of the Sea doesn't cut it, and comes across as awfully cheap in production values. In tackling a premise set in the depths of the ocean, Disney's The Little Mermaid and Pixar's Finding Nemo trounces it hands down with their sheer quality. Audiences have seen animated seaworlds come to life, and no way would they want to take multiple steps backwards. The first 5 minutes of the film would already put you off in its sparse sea sets, and endless, repetitive, unrealistic water scenes.

The reality of it is that the animation genre is already well advanced and way ahead compared to our attempts, with the big studios having an army of animators and creative talents to bring their
imaginative creations to life. Perhaps that's what sets apart the smaller scaled production house in churning out their creations realistically, but that's the reality of it. The challenges don't just stop short at the animation - poor character designs that seem stuck with limited facial expressions, lazy background graphics with sparsely drawn environments, and dull colours all seem to point to a rushed job.

To jump into the bandwagon would mean to meet the benchmark set by the bigger players, or at least to carve a niche of your own with an X-factor. But Legend failed to at least meet the bare minimum in the technical departments. Sound design was bad and seemed to be in mono, and the English subtitles were sub-standard with its typographical and grammatical errors that parents would be shocked to see on screen. On the entertainment values, it has too many sideshow characters voiced by virtual unknowns, and given the bigger names attached to the project, they too delivered their lines as if they're going through the motions, without breathing life into their characters. And when they break out unnaturally into song and dance, you just want to muffle the awful tunes and ridiculous, juvenile lyrics. Audiences, even if they're kids, have already grown in sophistication, and would roll their eyes at attempts to think otherwise.

Again classical folklore was plundered for inspiration in its storyline, but what resulted was a story with no depth, rushing through its final moments without any emotional impact whatsoever. In what is essentially material for a 30 minute short film extrapolated forcefully into an 80 minute feature, there were a number of characters that could be done without, if not for the sole purpose of ramping up the cute factor.

Perhaps shrewd marketing would have positioned the movie nicely in time for the school holidays, but with savvy kids these days, who were left flabbergasted and speechless in the screening I attended, would probably get the word out to their friends to enjoy other quality animated movies from their discs collection, or would probably find more fun in going green with the friendly neighbourhood ogre instead.

Movie Rating:

Review by Stefan Shih

(An awful, woeful legend)

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