One location, bad CGI, and a storyline that feels made for a pre-teen audience; these are the defining elements of Andy Lau’s Kung Fu Monster. It is disappointing in a way that a lot of Chinese cinema has become in recent years, and a way that should be familiar to American audiences. Try as they have to make this film entertaining to as broad of an audience as possible, the end result is too childish for adults and may even be too monotonous for the attention span of the modern child. It is hard to believe this filmmaker once made Infernal Affairs.
Taking place at the end of the Ming Dynasty, this period fantasy film involves a mystical creature that is captured to use in an assassination plan. When a member of the Imperial Secret Police (Louis Koo) discovers the plot and releases the beast to the wild rather than letting it be used for violence, he is imprisoned. Then, in an unlikely series of events, the prisoner transport is hijacked at a remote outpost by a band of bandits and outcasts led by his love (Bea Hayden Kuo). The monster also finds its way to the outpost, where nearly all of the film takes place.
The monster itself is clearly designed to elicit a specific response from the audience, and that is not terror. When angry, the creature does magically grow in size and change its demeanor to be more frightening, but it spends most of the film as a cuddly little creature that looks a bit like a gremlin in its cuddly form. The problem with the monster is that the film never seems to know what to do with it, and it spends most of the narrative on the outskirts as a result, seeming to exist merely for the occasional cute insert shot. And this is likely for the best, because interactions with the cast often feels forced as a result of the monster being entirely computer generated.
The Blu-ray release for this generically bad fantasy film includes a making-of featurette and trailers. The extras are fitting for the film, given they don’t seem to have been given much thought. There are better monster movies. There are better martial arts movies. There are also better Chinese films, though clearly not as many as there once were.
Entertainment Value: 4/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 3.5/10
Historical Significance: 0/10
Special Features: 2/10