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Jet Li takes to the sky in this ambitious but bloated martial arts actioner....
Magnolia / 96 Minutes / 2011 / Rated PG-13 / Street Date: April 9, 2013
There is a complicated myth at the center of The Sorcerer and the White Snake that takes a while to kick in. We know for sure that Fahai (Jet Li) is an ass-kicker supreme, a dude who has pretty much a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to shadow creatures treading on his homeland., and he’s definitely not happy when a bunch of new baddies show up. There is a White Snake Demon (Eva Huang) and a Green Snake Demon (Charlene Choi), and a couple men who have fallen under their spells who come to Fahai’s neck of the woods, and he simply won’t have it.
I guess it’s easiest to simply state that The Sorcerer and the White Snake attempts to juggle romance and martial arts with a vast expanse of fantastical imagery always at its forefront. Its participants definitely spin around and fight each other with predictable frequency, and the movie’s feel is assured and otherworldly in wonderful ways: this may just be another Crouching Tiger-esque actioner, but it’s pretty cool to stare at.
In fact, this writer felt himself staring at The Sorcerer and the White Snake more than he really paid intent attention to it. The swirling camerawork and rampant CGI usage on display in the movie are far more rich and engrossing than its exposition-heavy narrative, and this lends the film an unfortunate dullness. You definitely root for Jet Li to save the day and to have at least some of the forbidden love elements of the movie’s narrative to end up well, but the movie really is just another blah actioner.
Even if that’s true, though, The Sorcerer and the White Snake is a vividly watchable blah actioner. For deeply intent fans of the genre – the only ones who will get their money’s worth out of a viewing of this thing – Sorcerer will provide an opportunity to watch nice-looking people flying around all over the place, with impossibly lovely backgrounds set up behind them. Is that enough to legitimize the movie as a whole? Probably not. But even if mediocrity is first and foremost here, it sure is a brilliant-looking mediocrity.