Myth, TheReviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 11/13/07 20:55:22
(Worth A Look)
Once again, it’s time to lament that while Jackie Chan has spent the past few years churning out mostly mediocre-or-worse flops like “Around the World in 80 Days” or those damn “Rush Hour” sequels in Hollywood, he’s also spent the same time flying back home every now and then to make some darn-good-or-better flicks that, sadly, remain mostly unseen Stateside because they’ve been unceremoniously dumped onto DVD by the studios that pick up the rights to them but then never really bother to do anything about it.Chan’s latest such soon-to-be-mostly-unseen effort is “Jackie Chan’s The Myth,” which comes with a name that reminds us that Chan’s still a huge enough star to get his name in the title even though he didn’t write or direct. (Chan does not get the same treatment in the original Cantonese title: “San wa.”) The film is a departure for Chan in several ways: it’s more serious, more violent, less comedic, and, most notably, it sees the star tackling an historical epic along the lines of “House of Flying Daggers” and “Hero.” Considering Chan’s style lends itself best to lighthearted modern day adventures, seeing him done up in full-on Qin Dynasty armor and pulling off some nimble swordplay is at least worth a curious look from fans.
Don’t fret, however - there are two storylines at work in “The Myth,” and the second one is indeed a lighthearted modern day adventure, a bit of “Tomb Raider” by way of his own “Armor of God.” In this half of the picture, Jackie plays Jack, an earnest and impossibly wealthy archeologist who’s been having strange, recurring dreams in which he’s Meng Yi, a general in an ancient army who’s sent to protect Ok-soo (Kim Hee-seon), a Korean princess sent to marry the Chinese emperor as part of a treaty; after doing battle with Korean warrior General Choi (Choi Min-Soo) in a ripping opening action sequence, the rest of the recurring dream finds Ming Yi and Ok-soo falling in love as they trek back home.
All of this is handled with wild ambition by director (and frequent Chan collaborator) Stanley Tong, who’s unable to match the levels of visual grandeur set by Zhang Yimou and Ang Lee, but still comes close enough to merit some credit. As a costume epic, it looks pretty stunning, with the requisite sweeping vistas and oversized action scenes. Chan doesn’t look entirely comfortable in his period get-up, but his charm carries him through.
More effective are the modern scenes, which find Jack teaming with scientist buddy William (Tony Leung) as they search for the mythical coffin of China’s first emperor - a coffin which floats mid-air thanks to some magical stones. William wants those stones to aid in his anti-gravity research, while Jack doesn’t approve of such theft yet still wants to discover its secrets. Chan and Leung make a nice team, with Chan giving Leung most of the comic relief, an unexpected but welcome change of pace.
The modern day plotline goes off on countless tangents, which makes the film fail on a story level, but despite this, it wins as pure entertainment. The screenplay jams in a trip to India, an aside with a guru, a potential romantic interlude with Indian superstar Mallika Sherawat, and plenty of familiar Jackie Chan trademark fight scenes; somewhere in the middle of all of this, Chan also finds time to sing us a theme song.
It’s all disjointed yet such large-scale fun. Things finally start coming together for a ridiculously grand fantasy finale set in something of an afterlife, a massive cavern where the laws of gravity have taken a holiday. There, Jack finds Ok-soo, who thinks he’s Meng Yi, while a slimy tomb raider and the ancient emperor also pop up to create mass havoc.
The whole thing is fueled by more computer-driven special effects than have ever been seen in a Jackie Chan picture, which is, of course, cause for alarm to Chan fans. Chan’s always been able to sell his movies on the fact that those stunts are the real deal, but with “The Myth,” the fantasy elements reach such proportions that genuine stuntwork is downright impossible. Fortunately, it’s not just a matter of Chan fudging a fight sequence or a tough jump (something a few of his American films have sadly included), but a matter of physics-bending. “The Myth” makes no qualms about its CGI effects, and they’re fanciful enough that fans probably won’t, either.
When it was originally released in Asia, “The Myth” was received mostly with yawns and grumbles from fans and critics alike, the main sticking points being a sloppy storyline and too much un-Jackie Chan-like behavior. Yet it’s a film that deserves a second chance (or, in the case of American viewers, a first chance), as its no-holds-barred approach to grandiose entertainment and its daring attempts at something out of the ordinary make it thoroughly watchable. It’s not always the most coherent of adventures, but it’s always a blast.Note: The American release of “The Myth” has been cut by about thirty minutes from its original Hong Kong release. I usually grumble loudly over such edits - and I’ll admit that it probably adds to the confusion on hand in the plot - but the final product is enjoyable enough that I’m still recommending this version. Those with multi-region DVD players will probably do best to check out the original edit, but the rest of you, well, this’ll do fine for a fun weekend rental.
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