Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Li Feng, Mark Chao
  • Director: Lu Chuan
  • Format: Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, THX, Widescreen
  • Language: Mandarin Chinese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
  • Studio: Well Go USA
  • Release Date: July 5, 2016
  • Run Time: 115 minutes

        Watching Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe, it finally made sense to me why so many bad Hollywood blockbusters rely on China to pick up the slack on ticket sales for films that bomb in the United States. It isn’t that this is necessarily a bad film, but the incoherency of the narrative is consistently overshadowed by pure visual spectacle. I often had no idea what was going on until the revelations of the third act, but it is also one of the most visually polished films I have seen from China. Everything from cinematography to special effects is highly accomplished, though it is somewhat like building a sturdy house on quicksand. Without the strength of a solid screenplay, all the rest is merely a fleeting distraction until the next big-budget extravaganza is released.

        Borrowing from several classic blockbusters such as Raiders of the Lost Arc and Godzilla, Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe often feels disjointed even when it is working. Beginning with a confusing archaeological excavation in 1979, mixing fantasy with oddly placed political commentary from the time, the film ridiculously takes the time to clarify that this is not based on a true story. The movie opens with fossils of dragons being discovered, so I’m not exactly sure why the filmmakers felt it necessary to clarify this point. After an unexplored area of the mountain is discovered, Hu Bayi (Mark Chao) volunteers to join the expedition led by Professor Yang (Qingxiang Wang) and his daughter, Ping (Chen Yao).

        This mission into the caverns of a mountain lead to a mystical land with deadly fire bats, enormous Kaij┼ź creatures, and harsh terrain that results in the near-immediate death of the entire team. Hu Bayi somehow manages to survive and thinks that he is the only one until Professor Yang and his daughter reappear many years later. Hu Bayi has dedicated his life to the study of demonology, which comes in handy as creatures begin to attack the human world with the reappearances of the expedition survivors.

        The second mission of the film is more about the hunting and destruction of the monsters unleashed on the world, though Hu Bayi hopes to discover answers behind the mysteries of his survival from the expedition years earlier. There is also a romantic subplot between him and Ping, and several characters whose sole purpose appears to be comedic relief, but the film is at its best within the sequences of creature-feature action. I still don’t know if I am entirely clear on all of the details behind these beasts, but they provide some of the film’s most spectacular visuals and exciting sequences. This sums up the experience of watching this film rather well. While it is often too confusing and disjointed for its own good, the technical aspects are accomplished enough to make for moments of enjoyable eye candy.

        It doesn’t seem like the manufacturers of this Blu-ray even took the time to watch this film, as there are many errors within the marketing and promotional materials. First, the runtime listed on the back of the disc is off by five minutes. This is minor compared to the problem with the plot description on the back of the case, which claims that the film takes place in present day New York City. The film never gets out of the 1980s, and I never saw anything remotely resembling New York. The minimal effort extends to the special features, which are nonexistent.

Entertainment Value: 7/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 6/10
Historical Significance:  5/10
Special Features: 0/10

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