SYNOPSIS: A young man falls for a heroic general and soon follows her footsteps as humans defend Earth against extraterrestrials seeking a precious energy source.
Touted as China’s answer to Independence Day, Shanghai Fortress unfortunately opens to disastrous box-office receipts and a heavy amount of flak from audiences resulting in director Teng Huatao having to issue one apology after another that the entire episode is far more entertaining than the movie itself.
Based on a novel by Jiang Nan, the world we know is invaded by a gigantic Alien mothership and before the opening credits actually shows up, most part of the world has already been destroyed and the only place left on earth is Shanghai. Protected by a shield that is generated by a strange energy source known as xianteng and led by Commander Shao (Leon Shi) and Commander Lin (Shu Qi), Shanghai is also guarded by a group of young brave military men and women which includes the Grey Eagle squad, Jiang Yang (ex-EXO member Lu Han) and his three buddies.
To be fair to Jiang Nan, we are pretty sure his 2009 novel is not as shallow as the movie adaptation. Yet again, he has a part in scripting the movie so I guess he deserved some blame as well. The plotting of Shanghai Fortress is so bad that even Roland Emmerich’s much maligned Independence Day 2 is far more entertaining. Obviously, director Teng Huatao and Jiang Nan has prioritized on the wrong things in Shanghai Fortress. Instead of focusing on the military and sci-fi aspect of it, much of the movie’s runtime is stuck with the awkward love affair between junior crew member Jiang Yang and his infatuation with the much higher rank Commander Lin.
It’s a complete waste of time watching the much capable Shu Qi being stuck in a pointless role that requires nothing but close-up of her staring blankly into nowhere or green screen. And Lu Han of course is wrongly cast as the male lead. Perhaps an actor liked Leon Lai or Feng Shaofeng fits the stature better. Even the relationship between the four buddies are hardly emphasized on before they are thrown into war and predictably sacrificed for the greater good.
Completed by effects companies in both Beijing and Korea, the action and CGI in general ranges from mediocre to serviceable. While the CGI displayed is nothing to shout about, Shanghai Fortress does feature several worthy action sequences (which convincingly featured Shanghai being blown to pieces) if you don’t mind the inserted glaring patriotic messages.
Shanghai Fortress is basically a wasted opportunity considering how good The Wandering Earth is. It does serve its purpose as a popcorn, no-brainer B movie in the end. But for audiences who grew up watching aliens blowing up big cities, this half-baked sci-fi effort is no longer adequate to draw in the crowd.
Review by Linus Tee