Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal Blu-ray Review

     Actors: Winston Chao, Kun Chen, Li Bingbing
  • Directors: Peter Pau, Tianyu Zhao
  • Format: Blu-ray, Widescreen
  • Language: Cantonese
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Well Go USA
  • Release Date: August 4, 2015
  • Run Time: 118 minutes



            I imagine that the large scale Chinese blockbuster, Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal, to be comparable to the recent Hollywood attempts at the Hercules mythology, in terms of new fantasy films cashing in on classic narratives. Directors Peter Pau and Tianyu Zhao take on the legend of Zhong Kui (Kun Chen), an anti-hero who is a pawn in the battle between Heaven and Hell, mostly occurring on Earth. The fantasy is completed with a star-crossed-lovers subplot, with the title character Snow Girl (Bingbing Li) as the object of Zhong Kui’s desire. All of this begs for large scale adaptation, offering plenty of opportunity for special effects spectacle. Unfortunately, we are left with bad CGI that looks like all of the filler movies in video games.


            Zhong Kui is first shepherded into the battle by the God of Heaven (played by director Peter Pau), who shows him his ability to become the Demon King, a powerful warrior able to fight against the demons sent by Hell. He is trained to harness the power and fight against the demons, who arrive on Earth to retrieve the Dark Crystal that Heaven had stolen from Hell. I’m still a little unclear on the significance of the Dark Crystal; I believe it had something to do with reincarnation or something, but it hardly matters when the animation takes over the film.


            When a group of demons disguised as beautiful women arrive in town shortly after the Dark Crystal is stolen, Zhong Kui is shocked to find that one of them is Snow Girl, a former lover from his past. Despite fighting for different sides of the supernatural battle, the two lovers reunite and become each other’s greatest ally. Although little else is believable, the performances from the film’s romantic leads are convincingly entrancing. Unfortunately, the remainder of the film is too uneven to support them.


            I don’t know if the special effects are sub-par in China or if it’s a stylistic choice, but I found the CGI to be more distracting than helpful to the viewing experience. I will say this: while I found the effects to be jarringly bad, by the end of the film I had gotten somewhat accustomed to the style. I still think it looks bad, but the acting and the story was compelling enough for me to give the film some leeway.


            The Blu-ray special features contain a making-of featurette and the trailer. I suppose it is possible that the high definition presentation of the film helps the special effects, but I can’t imagine them looking much worse. It might actually help to see less of them. All of the rest of the imagery is rather well done, as Pau has primarily worked as a cinematographer.


    Entertainment Value: 6/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 5.5/10

    Historical Significance:  4/10

    Special Features: 3/10

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