Sunday 10 November 2013

Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon Movie Review!!!

The Sherlock Holmes of the Tang Dynasty is back in this outstanding adventure!!! Read on to find out why you MUST watch this!!!

I may be late watching this but boy am I glad I did!

It really is a rare phenomenon when a sequel outshines its predecessor but I strongly feel that this is one of those occasions.

The original Detective Dee, starring Andy Lau as the uber detective in ye olde China (Tang Dynasty), was a love hate affair for me.  I liked the premise of watching a genius Sherlock Holmes style detective in ancient China, incredibly smart, adept at martial arts; it had all the ingredients for a brilliant character.  The outcome, although not bad, just felt underwhelming and never quite lived up to my expectations.  There was very little super intelligent crime-solving going on; the crime itself was not that interesting and the end result was just another Andy Lau movie.

It looks like director extraordinaire, Tsui Hark, has since then really perfected the character.  He’s taken all the best elements from the original and fine-tuned them to produce this excellent movie. 

Tsui Hark with Angelababy

The story opens with an impressive attack on a royal fleet of ships by a mysterious sea monster, the eponymous beast of the title.  This of course leads to high alert and panic in the city as towns-folk worry they have upset the gods.  In a bid to make the gods happy, the simple towns folk plan to sacrifice the beautiful courtesan Yin (Angelababy).  Meanwhile, detective Yuchi (Feng Shaofeng) is given a mandate and time limit within which to find out what is really going on by Empress Wu (Carina Lau).  Failure to break the case within the allotted time will mean his death.

Our hero, Dee Renjie (Mark Chao), arrives in the capital of Imperial China with a special commendation to be enlisted as part of the cities special police force.  Before our young hero can even formally introduce himself to head Detective Yuchi, he stumbles on a plot to kidnap Angelababy by not only a group of thugs but also by a swamp monster man. 

Dee’s superior intellect is apparent right from the outset, he can see things others can’t, sees connections and figures out puzzles quicker than anyone else.  This of course does not go unnoticed by Empress Wu. 

Much to detective Yuchi’s annoyance, Dee is soon appointed head detective in charge of the case.  But the humble detective Dee makes it clear he is not in the Imperial city for power, he simply wants to help people and uphold the law.  He makes it clear that they must work together.  Can Dee’s intellect, Yuchi’s fighting skills and help from their trustworthy assistant Dr. Watson Dr. Shatuo Zhong (Lin Gengxin), break the case??

I really enjoyed this movie.  At first I was concerned that a younger cast may make the on-goings less believable, but quite to the contrary, they got the age skew of the cast just right.  The cast was fresh and, in the absence of baggage associated with big name leads, allowed for the characters to be realized and fleshed out much better.  There is excellent chemistry between our lead, his doctor assistant and rival lead detective Yuchi.  It’s great watching them work together to break the case.  Angelababy is great as eye candy but that’s all she really is this time round, much less proactive than her character in Tai Chi Zero and much more the classic damsel in distress. 

Special mention needs to be made of the special effects, especially in the end sequence.  I believe Tsui Hark enlisted the help of South Korean special affects maestros and the outcome is really pretty great.

The movie may be a tad long, but I never felt it was lagging or getting boring in the way I did with the 2010 movie.  In fact, I really didn’t want the movie to end!  I really enjoyed watching the story unfold, watching the trio investigate and piece together the puzzle. The excellent direction and acting ensured I was right there with them as the mystery unfolded.  Some moments of perfectly timed humour (make sure you stay for the post-credits scenes) helped to further ensure I was hooked from start to finish.

Dee is a great character, ultra smart, righteous and street savvy.  He may be excellent at fighting but he’s not the best.  This just served to make the character more believable than the Andy Lau incarnation who was just too good at everything.

A great movie and a really great character, this movie managed to hit all the points the original missed.  I can’t wait for the next Detective Dee movie!

The only thing that would be better is a Sherlock Holmes and Detective Dee team up movie, but I guess I should keep dreaming.

Highly recommended!

Rating 4.5 out of 5.


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