HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal
HTS Overall Score:81
It seems the last month we’ve seen a resurgence of Hong Kong Cinema coming from Well Go USA. There has been a decidedly low amount as of recent months, with the majority of the titles being Korean and Thai films. Good old fashioned Hong Kong flicks were at an all-time low, and while I love Asian cinema of all varieties, I really do have a big soft spot for Hong Kong action movies. With “Kung Fu Killer”, “Taking Tiger Mountain” and now “Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal” I’m happy as a clam once more. Based off of Chinese folklore, director Peter Pau has adapted an ancient bit of anti-hero folklore into a CGI powered tale of action, love and revenge.
In this world there are three realms. Heaven, Hell and Earth. We all know of the human realm, but heaven and hell have been battling for centuries. Once every 1000 years on the 15th day of the year, the barriers between the realms become thin, allowing beings to cross back and forth into the other realms. The town of Hu is invaded by demons from the pits of hell to steal souls. Realizing the damage these creatures are doing, Heaven sends Master Zhang (Winston Chao), one of the lesser gods, to deal with the issue and reclaim the lost souls before hell can power the dark crystal, a device which carries the souls of all mortals. Being that gods cannot enter into hell, Master Zhang sends demon hunter extraordinaire, Zhong Kui (Chen Kun) into the pit to steal the dark crystal. Once safely back in Zhang’s hands, he warns the city of Hu that the Demons will come for the crystal, and that they must batten down the proverbial hatches.
Literally the day after the event, the city of Hu is visited by a travelling group of female performers, who we all know to be demons in disguise. Leading them is a snow demon, guised as a woman of exceeding beauty. The hitch comes when this demon is actually the same woman who stole Zhong Kui’s heart several years ago when he was nothing but a simple scholar. Addled by the appearance of the lovely creature, Zhong misses all of the signs that ladies are not who they say they are and they are able to make an attempt on the crystal. Almost succeeding, they are stopped by Zhong’s alternate form, a powerful demonic form imbued upon him by Master Zhang himself to fight fire with fire (quite literally in this case). At this point I’m scratching my head as the halfway point of the movie is barely here, and the crystal is safe once again, only to realize that Pau has a bit of a twist for the audience. Once Zhang has the crystal it becomes clear that he has some rather nasty desires of his own. Desires that will cause allegiances to crumble and new alliances formed out of necessity. Betrayed and cast out, Zhong Kui has to choose between the love he’s never been able to forget, the master that has molded him, and the truth, which is something a bit closer to the middle.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=50665[/img]“Snow Girl” is much closer to “Taking of Tiger Mountain” in feel. Changing and adapting a historical event mixed with ancient folklore into a more modern setting. Zhong Kui has always been a mythical anti-hero, part monster and part human, but fighting for both. Sometimes he’s on the side of humans, and other times he’s fighting for the supernatural real, but always in some sort of adventure. Here we see his rise to power as the famed half human, half supernatural superhero. The story is a blast, with lots and lots of action ranging from good old fashioned martial arts to super powered battles between monsters to magical fantasy elements with a wonderfully fun blending of all three. Zhang as his godlike form and Snow Girl (Bingbing Li) as her icy demon form shoot powerful magics, while Zhong’s human form does your standard hand to hand combat. The only downside to the picture is the downside to many a Chinese film. They don’t put a lot of budget into the CGI, even when it’s used copiously, but instead prefer to use their limited funds into the physical set pieces and costumes. Those set pieces and costumes are nothing short of AMAZING, but when you have a movie that is like 40% CGI and you don’t have the budget for it, the cracks start to show really fast. Most of it is more than acceptable, but the CGI form of Zhong’s demon half just looks REALLY bad. Like 1990’s, early 2000’s bad. Still, once you get used to that little quirk, the rest of the movie flows like a charm, with our femme fatale story of love and passion intermingled with a greater story.
Normally a 2 hour long epic tends to be WAY heavy on the love aspect, and while there is plenty of that (Asians love their love stories, especially in epic films), Pau does a great job at making the second half of the move breeze along by with the added plot twist of Master Zhang’s betrayal. It just works and sets up Zhong Kui for his final decision at the end of the movie and turning point for him to become the mythical legend that is known throughout Chinese lore. I had some issues with the pacing, and certain plot points being rushed, but the end product is still quite a lot of fun, especially for something this different, as it is more fantasy than anything else.
Not Rated by the MPAA
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=50673[/img]Filmed in scope aspect ratio of 2.39:1, the Blu-ray is a stunner, with more colors than you could possibly imagine adorning the screen. The cover itself will give you a glimpse of what you’re in for, as you can see already that there are about a dozen different colors and shades on that Blu-ray sleeve itself, let alone all the variations within the movie. Bright neon shades of red, green, gold, white and blue saturate the screen in a display that can only be described as dazzling. The blacks and reds of hell are deep and visceral, while the white levels and golden accents are accentuated when visiting the heavenly realms. Earth itself is a much more natural shade, with earthy browns, blacks, and all the other colors more muted and simple. The neon’s and heavily saturated colors that you associate with the other real are there, just shaded and saturated differently. Black levels are usually VERY good, with incredible shadow detail and a deep inky look. There are a couple of scenes where the boosted whites of a particular sequence wash out the black levels to more of a grey, but those scenes come and go very intermittently, leaving the rest of the image stunning to the point of perfection. Fine detail is incredible, allowing every bit of textured cloth and every poor bit of CGI to stand out with ease, and the highly stylized look to the people themselves don’t mar anything that isn’t meant to softened. A+
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=50681[/img]“Snow Girl” comes to Blu-ray with a Mandarin 5.1 DTS-HD MA track as well as a 2.0 Dolby Digital track of the same language for night listening. The 5.1 experience is amazingly well done, with crisp vocals and a wildly immersive back set of speakers. The surrounds are constantly in use with the swirling of robes, the clash of swords or the blasting of magics all around. The subtle rustling of brocade as a lady walks is whisper quiet, but still perfectly audible, and the roar of Zhong’s demonic form ripples from all directions. The track itself shows exceptional clarity wonderful directionality, as you can pinpoint effects coming from every direction. LFE is constant and powerful, but never TOO aggressive or pounding. It hammers away throughout the film, adding a nice low end to the battles, and makes Zhong’s superhero form seem even more intimidating. Well done from beginning to end.
• Making of Featurrettes
• Well Go USA Previews
“Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal” is a visual tour de force, filled with extravagant costumes, luscious colors of all flavors and plenty of hard hitting action to satisfy any Hong Kong junkie. The weak CGI is a bit annoying, but nothing that most people who are familiar with Asian movies will see as too big of a detriment. The discs audio and video scores are fantastic, and while the movie itself is not PERFECT, it’s a fun little watch that left me more than entertained. Definitely worth checking out if you can.
Starring: Bei-Er Bao, Winston Chao, Kun Chen
Directed by: Peter Pau, Tianyu Zhao
Written by: Junli Guo, Raymond Lei
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: Mandarin: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Mandarin DD 2.0
Studio: Well Go USA
Runtime: 118 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: August 4th 2015
Buy Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Worth a Watch
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