Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Promise

We saw "The Promise"( Wu ji) on Sunday night. It shares some DNA with "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon": mythical-magical martial arts set in ancient China, lavish costumes and sets, and loads of CGI and flying stuntwork. The script and special affects are not quite in the same league though...

"The Promise" was fun but came off more as a cross between "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen" and "House of Flying Daggers". The Baron Munchausen similarity goes beyond the fantastic setting - one of the characters comes from the "Land of Snow" (think Tibet) and has the ability to run incredibly fast, which reminded me a lot of Eric Idle's character in Munchausen.

"The Promise" is at times so goofy you think it must be tongue-in-cheek, yet at other times it takes itself very seriously, so the end result is an uneven mix of tones. The acting was generally great - I thought all the central characters were perfect, and only the "baddie" seemed a little too cliched and one-dimensional.

The special effects were at times subtle and well-used, and at other times completely overblown and ridiculous. (For example, the all-too-fake looking circular city, the huge CGI battle scene, or the cartoony bull stampede). Nicer touches were the morph/blends from one scene to another, and the awesome Goddess Manshen.

If you can switch off your brain and not worry about the weak plot or occasionally silly special effects, this is a fun movie. If you want a more enjoyable goofy kung-fu movie (albeit set in the 1940's) , see "Kung Fu Hustle". (I need to check out some of Stephen Chow's other movies...)

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