Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Painted Skin 2: The Resurrection Movie Review

Is it worth watching?  Read on to find out.

One of the things I remember being really excited about when I first moved to Singapore was being able to watch my favourite Hong Kong, Korean and Asian movies at the cinema.  Initially I was a bit annoyed by how all the Cantonese movies were dubbed into Mandarin, especially if it was the work of an actor I was more familiar with, however, not being able to really understand either language meant that the big screen experience usually remained untarnished.

So we come to one of the big summer releases from China – Painted Skin 2: The Resurrection.  I actually quite liked the original Painted Skin and managed to catch it while I was out travelling through Hong Kong and Singapore when it was released in 2008.  The story was based loosely on one of the famous tales by Pu Songling.  He published a series of short stories collectively known as Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio in 1740 (I've just ordered my English language copy on Amazon).  From these tales many well known supernatural movies and TV serials have been made, including the classic Leslie Cheung starring vehicle 'A Chinese Ghost Story'.

The first Painted Skin movie was not favored by people in Hong Kong and Singapore as it apparently deviated so much from the stories they had heard growing up as children.  Not being familiar with such tales meant that I could appreciate it for what it was, quite an interesting film.  A film about a female demon in love with a human man and being forced to literally eat human hearts, despite despising it, to stay alive in human form to be with him.   It was interesting that she was not inherently evil but seemed to be doing everything she did out of genuine love for a man, something all the people hunting her would not be able to see.  In the end she would sacrifice everything for true love.  Whether her love was reciprocated or not I will let you decide.

A few years have passed and now we have the second movie – with no Donnie Yen I should add.   Donnie can be quite hit and miss with his movies.  Sha Po Lang, Ip man and Wu Xia are amazing but his other recent offerings not so.  He did add a nice touch to the first movie, some comedic relief at times, but his presence is not really missed in this.

First off the bat, despite what Wikipedia says – this is indeed a sequel to the 2008 movie.  Zhou Xun returns as the sexily seductive Xiao Wei – The Fox Spirit.  However, the story takes place 500 years after the events of the first movie.  Zhao Wei and Chen Kun are once again lovers but as different characters.  Who knows, maybe they are reincarnated versions of the characters in the first movie.  For the sacrifice Xiao Wei the Fox Spirit made in the first movie we find her imprisoned in ice in this second movie.  With the aid of a Bird Spirit she is able to escape from this fortress of solitude. Xiao Wei once again finds herself in the company of Zhao Wei who is this time the princess of a nation and Chen Kun a warrior in her army.  

Things get complicated from hereon out.  The princess has been betrothed to marry the prince of an evil clan to unite their two nations, if she does not marry him then the evil clan will effectively declare war on the princess’s White City.  However, the princess is in love with the warrior who in turn loves her but feels that he is not worthy of a place by her side.  Add to this Xiao Wei who wants nothing more than to be human and we have an interesting mix.  Xiao Wei wishes to be able to love and be loved, to touch, to taste, to smell, these are the things she yearns for the most.  In that sense the viewer can get a glimpse of the type of hell that is her life, a life in which she cannot die and yet cannot truly live.  We can empathize with her situation and understand why she appears to manipulate the princess and the warrior in the way that she does. She takes advantage of the princess's insecurities about her scarred face, a scar from a childhood injury which she believes may be the reason the warrior cannot bring himself to be with her.  Xiao Wei casts a spell on the warrior making him become infatuated with her in the hope that she can use this to entice the princess to freely accept her cunning proposal.

It is revealed that under certain special circumstances it is possible for a human and a spirit to change places.  So Xiao Wei may become human and so the princess may adopt Xiao Wei's form to be with the warrior she loves.  Queue some Face/Off style shenanigans where the movie really lives up to it’s name and things get even more complicated.    

I quite enjoyed this movie but that is not to say that the movie is without fault because there are quite a few.  It is slightly too long and the whole sub-story featuring the evil clan, to me, served only to distract from the main story which was the relationship between the spirit, the princess and the warrior.  I found it refreshing to see the spirit not as an evil entity per se but just as a being trying to find a way out.  In fact, with all the skin changing that goes on it appeared that she was trying to devise a way that would allow all parties to be happy with the deal.  But alas, things are never that simple in the movie world.  

I have to make a special mention of the rather good special effects.  It really looks as if movies from Hong Kong and China are now second only to the US.  I’m sure guys, and perhaps some ladies, will enjoy the pool skin-changing scene. 

All in all, a pretty entertaining movie.  I’m glad I saw it and would recommend people try to catch it but I doubt I’ll be adding this one to my collection once it’s released on Blu-ray.  Seeing the superior first movie prior to watching it is recommended. 

Don’t go in expecting a martial arts movie but more a supernatural thriller and you should leave happy.

Rating 3/5


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