Cast: Carina Lau, Ethan Juan, Feng Shaofeng, Ma Sichun, Mark Chao
North American Premiere of original 3D version
All fantasy franchises should now feature Tsui Hark as director and star Carina Lau as queen. Caphiche? Good. This time out, Lau plays the famed Empress Wu Zetian, upset that the all-powerful “Dragon-Taming Mace,” a scepter that even the royal family can’t tame, has ended up in the hands of super-sleuth Detective Dee, head of the Bureau of Investigation. And so she dispatches Dee’s long-time rival Yuchi and a colorful band of jianghu tricksters to capture it.
And with that premise, Tsui Hark unleashes the cinematic fireworks. Tumbling statues, Jurassic-sized creatures, exploding cartoon flesh, weaponry piercing into frame from offscreen space. Every scene of action is an exploding balloon of visual creativity. And as Tsui’s been perfecting since Flying Swords at Dragon Gate (SDAFF ’12), 3D propels that tireless wizardry in funky new direction. We get vertical plunges and horizontal pivots, but also depth charges – this is a film you can’t duck your head from. But it’s not just flinging objects in our faces. Tsui indulges in the spectacle of magic – the very spectacle that deludes the Empress in her quest for glory – by casting doubt on the very physicality of those flying props, darts, and supernatural characters. This is Tsui Hark’s digital cinema, a playground of body shifters, hypnotists, and rain conjurers taking us to the limits of visual possibility, where the line between the tangible and the illusory blur, and the line between sorcery and criminality can go “poof” in an instant.
What a playground it is for the deadpan Detective Dee – part Sherlock Holmes, part Ethan Hunt, part Robert Mueller – strutting fearlessly in the Tsui universe, nonchalantly solving mysteries while we sit agape at the indefatigable visual extravaganza, scene after scene of cinematic wonders we’ve never seen before.
Underwritten by: VivaLaChi