Review: THE SORCERER AND THE WHITE SNAKE 白蛇傳說 (2011) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Thursday, 29 September 2011


RATING: 2.5/5

Earlier this year, we are treated with Wilson Yip's highly-anticipated remake of Ching Siu-Tung and Tsui Hark's supernatural romance classic A CHINESE GHOST STORY. Unfortunately that movie was a huge disappointment, and definitely a far cry from the 1987 original version. Naturally, when another highly-anticipated Chinese blockbuster (THE SORCERER AND THE WHITE SNAKE) is arrived with the similar supernatural romance genre, I'm already expecting the worse. After all, it's a movie directed by the inconsistent veteran filmmaker Ching Siu-Tung whose last effort, 2008's AN EMPRESS AND THE WARRIORS, was a huge failure. But THE SORCERER AND THE WHITE SNAKE really caught me by surprise -- it's a fairly entertaining genre mishmash that mixes over-the-top martial arts showcase, imaginative visual effects, above-average acting, overblown romanticism and decent comic reliefs.

At the beginning of the movie, we see the powerful and no-nonsense sorcerer/monk Fahai (Jet Li) defeats a sexy-looking Snow Goblin (Vivian Hsu, in a cameo appearance) and instructs his comical disciple Neng Wen (Wen Zhang) to imprison her in the wall of a sacred pagoda high in the mountains. Then Fahai and Neng Wen proceed to leave their Jinshan Temple base in a journey to exorcise a bat-demon before it can wreck havoc at the upcoming Lantern Festival.

On the other side of the story are two beautiful, centuries-old White Snake (Eva Huang) and Green Snake (Charlene Choi) who are both capable to morph into seductive ladies or vicious giant serpents at will. One day White Snake has unexpectedly falls in love with a handsome herbalist Xu Xian (Raymond Lam) from drowning. During the underwater rescue, she has kissed him and never stops thinking about him ever since.

A chance encounter ensues as Green Snake helps White Snake to meet Xu Xian again, which is coincidentally during the Lantern Festival. It doesn't take long before both White Snake and Xu Xian eventually fall for each other -- a big mistake that leads to bad consequences.

Normally, I have little hope for Ching Siu-Tung especially when he is the one in charge of directing a movie. After all, I'm sure a lot of movie fans out there agree that he's better as action choreographer than an accomplished director. But it's a surprise that Ching Siu-Tung's direction here, though haphazard, is fairly exceptional. Clocking at a compact 95 minutes, the movie is quite a visual feast. It's often colorful, noisy, and at times beautifully realized (particularly the underwater setting) that its nonstop eye-candy is busy enough to keep the viewers occupied. While the extensive visual effects are mostly fake-looking, they are at least imaginative enough to warrant this as a guilty-pleasure entertainment. Speaking of imagination, check out the all-hell-breaks-loose finale when Fahai squares off against White Snake that involves a gigantic wave of ocean. To top it off, there's Mark Lui's rousing music score which often elevated the movie with an epic grandeur feel.

As for the plot, the central "love conquers all" story line is both corny and earnest. Some of the dialogues are cringeworthy, but at least they are still tolerable.

Acting-wise, Jet Li, whose last Chinese martial-art movie was 2006's FEARLESS, does a competent job as a no-nonsense sorcerer/monk. It's also good to see him back in the familiar genre he's once famous for. At 48, Jet Li remains as slick as ever in his martial art move. TVB actor Raymond Lam is perfectly typecast as the naive herbalist, Xu Xian while Eva Huang, who was best known for Stephen Chow's KUNG FU HUSTLE, is feisty and altogether wonderful presence as the lovesick White Snake. In the meantime, the normally-annoying Charlene Choi is surprisingly less irritating in her bubbly performance as Green Snake. Then there's the cute talking animals, particularly at one scene involving the marriage between White Snake and Xu Xian, are blessed with colorful performances by the cameo appearances of Jiang Wu, Miriam Yeung, Chapman To, Law Kar-Ying and Lam Suet.

Overall, THE SORCERER AND THE WHITE SNAKE is a fun if cloying B-grade movie that deserved at least a one-time viewing.

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