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Zhong Kui: Snow Girl
and the Dark Crystal
Zhong Kui: Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal

Aloys Chen is Zhong Kui in Zhong Kui: Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal.

鍾馗伏魔 雪妖魔靈

Year: 2015  
Director: Peter Pau, Zhao Tianyu  
Producer: Ann An, Peter Pau

Zhao Tianyu, Qin Zhen, Shen Shiqi, Li Jie, Raymond Lei Jin, Eric Zhang


Jacky Yeung


Aloys Chen, Li Bingbing, Winston Chao, Yang Zishan, Baobeier, Jike Junyi

The Skinny: The CGI-stuffed Zhong Kui: Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal does the job as commercial multiplex fodder, but is poorly developed and ultimately forgettable. More suitable for kids and CGI-addicted audiences than people who care about story or actual filmmaking. As the should-be ugly Zhong Kui, Aloys Chen is very pretty and Li Bingbing is, too.
by Kozo:

Zhong Kui: Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal represents another big-budget attempt at wooing Chinese audiences spoiled by Hollywood blockbusters. The key factors: CGI, Chinese source material with strong cultural roots, CGI and CGI. Lots of CGI. According to folklore, Zhong Kui is a scholar who committed suicide and was given power by the King of Hell to hunt and capture demons. Zhong Kui is also known for his ugly face, but since the gloriously handsome Aloys Chen stars as the character in Zhong Kui: Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal, the whole ugly-looking thing is naturally thrown out the window. Not to be outdone in the looks department, Li Bingbing offers her incomparable bone structure to the film as the icy female demon Snow Girl. Pretty people: Next to CGI, it’s the most necessary thing in cinema today.

What it’s about: Every millennium, on the 15th day of the 7th lunar month, all beings can travel between Heaven, Earth and Hell for reasons including reincarnation or simply the dead choosing to visit the living (in modern times, the Hungry Ghost Festival is celebrated on this day). The convergence of beings from the three realms understandably causes chaos, and after some demons go on a rampage and violently devour human souls near rural Hu City, heavenly deity Zhang Daoxian (Winston Chao) is assigned to protect its citizens. Zhang instructs his pupil, the demon hunter Zhong Kui (Chen), to steal the ominous-sounding Dark Crystal from Hell. The Dark Crystal houses captured human souls as well as data on the demons, so naturally Hell isn’t too happy about losing it. While the demons fret, the Dark Crystal is placed in Hu’s central pagoda where it’s guarded by a Kirin (or Qilin, a mythical dragon-like beast).

Zhong Kui also receives a mystical fan that, when opened, will transform him into a 10 foot-tall demon with rippling muscles and super physical powers. While Zhong Kui adapts to his new Hulk-like abilities, Hell places its hopes on Snow Girl (Li), an ice demon who infiltrates Hu City with a group of female demons disguised as a travelling dancer troupe. Snow Girl’s goal is to steal the Dark Crystal, and Zhong Kui is immediately suspicious, not least because she resembles his old flame, ice spirit Little Snow (also Li Bingbing, duh). This storyline – Zhong Kui working to protect the Dark Crystal while looking to reconnect with Little Snow – is OK but seems too slight to effectively fill a two-hour movie. Not helping is the weak development of their romance. Flashbacks feature Zhong Kui and Little Snow falling in love almost instantly, and while the chemistry between the actors is fine, the film doesn’t do enough to make their emotions compelling.

Matters improve somewhat when other plotlines are introduced; questions arise concerning Zhong Kui’s true origins, and themes of enmity between beings from the three realms – humans, demons and deities – contain strong potential. However, the ideas aren’t adequately presented throughout the film and just kind of show up when the story needs new direction. Some moments are mystifying in their uselessness; the film creates supposed tension from its “girls masquerading as demons” plotline but Zhong Kui clearly knows they’re demons, and spends an entire scene passive-aggressively trolling them for the lulz rather than doing something to stop them. Also, the final fight sequence is dumb; the good guy appears right next to the bad guy, who casually allows it and then seems shocked when he gets attacked. One of Hong Kong’s most lauded cinematographers, director Peter Pau (assisted by co-director Zhao Tianyu) is unfortunately not much of a storyteller; he packs Zhong Kui with set pieces but doesn’t develop the narrative well.

Superficially, the film impresses; production design and costumes are good, and the visuals are occasionally arresting. However, the character designs for Zhong Kui’s and Little Snow’s demon forms are unimaginative, plus they’re animated poorly, with herky-jerky movement and a robotic veneer that would better suit a PlayStation 3 cutscene. Compounding matters is that their demon forms get lots of screentime, and are even called upon to show emotion. The effect is unconvincing; magical attacks and the Kirin are rendered fine, but the uncanny valley for the humanoid characters is too wide to effectively engage the audience, resulting in a film that’s much less than the opulent and emotional fantasy that it wants to be. As eye candy, or as a babysitter for CGI-addicted kids, Zhong Kui: Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal does the job, but those looking for an alternative to big-budget Hollywood fare should temper expectations. Those looking for an average Chinese fantasy film – well, here it is. (Kozo, 6/2015)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Warner Home Video (HK)
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Mandarin Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also Available on 3D Blu-ray Disc
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