‘The Sorcerer and the White Snake’ – a disappointing effort

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The Sorcerer and the White Snake
Directed by Ching Siu-tung
Written by Charcoal Tan, Tsang Kan-Cheung, Szeto Cheuk-Hon
Hong Kong/China, 2011

Adapted, one assumes loosely, from an ancient Chinese legend, The Sorcerer and the White Snake reveals the tale of how two worlds, the world of humans and the world of demons, collid together for love despite tradition dictating for years that they should not. Two snake demons, the white snake Susu (Eva Huang) and the green snake QingQing (Charlene Choi), each fall for two different human men, propelling their respective universes into tremendous conflict, particularly when the great monk Fahai (Jet Li), constantly on the prowl for such monsters as the snake woman, learns of their infatuation. Is it true that love conquers all, or shall old divides keep everyone apart?

We live in a day and age in which hundreds of films employ the assistance of computer generated technology to enhance movies. There is an entire legion of people who show their disliking for CG like war veterans wear their medals with the highest honour. For me, CG, when used in the right doses and for the right purposes (which is what eludes filmmakers all too often), it can be a terrific visual tool. One need only watch Avatar as a prime example. There are few things more uncomfortable to watch in cinema than filmmakers making overt use of computer enhanced imagery to bring creatures and action to life when the funds and know-how are clearly, clearly insufficient in making anything look the least bit respectable. The budget for The Sorcerer and the White Snake was assuredly quite respectable given the large cast of familiar Hong Kong faces (Jet Li, for one), the large sets the production design crew constructed and the innumerable fight and chase sequences that required choreography and practice. All that being said, the amount of awful CG in this film is downright hideous. It is used in abundance, liberally, as though that was all the filmmakers had going for them, but it is so unmistakably clear that they lacked the sophistication to make their CG enhancements look even half decent. The film is a festival of poor CG. Worse still, there is an endless battle in the climax between the monk Fahai and the white snake that goes on, and on, and on…all with despicable CG, the entire contest. It is a mind numbing experience. As for the story, grandiose emotional statements are tossed around too quickly wit the film earning them and character motivations, with the exception of Li’s all-powerful monk who basically only has one objective, ill-conceived at best. A disappointing effort all around. For what it is worth though, Eva Huang is a immensely watchable.

– Edgar Chaput

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