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The Myth
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(left) Jackie Chan, and (right) Jackie Chan and Kim Hee-Sun in The Myth.
Chinese: 神話  
Year: 2005
Director: Stanley Tong Kwai-Lai
Producer: Willie Chan, Solon So, Barbie Tung
Writer: Stanley Tong Kwai-Lai, Wang Hui-Ling, Li Hai-Shu
Action: Stanley Tong Kwai-Lai, Jackie Chan, Richard Hung
Cast: Jackie Chan, Kim Hee-Sun, Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Mallika Sherawat, Yu Rong-Guang, Choi Min-Soo, Patrick Tam Yiu-Man, Ken Wong Hap-Hei, Sun Zhou, Shao Bing, Jin Song, Ken Lo Wai-Kwong, Hiro Hayama
  The Skinny: Jackie Chan's latest is a schizophrenic affair. Gratefully, The Myth mixes a few new things in with the old, the result being an unusual but still watchable Jackie Chan cocktail. Like most Chan films, the whole is questionable, but the parts can entertain.
by Kozo:

Calling The Myth a good movie is a tough thing to do, because it's not really a movie. The Myth is actually two movies intertwined into a questionably coherent time-spanning plotline that works better in concept than in execution. Jackie Chan takes on two roles; some of the time, he's a Qin Dynasty-era general named Meng Yi, and the rest of the time, he's Meng Yi's reincarnation, archaeologist Jack Lee. Basically, what happened in the past fuels the plot in the present, but the parts don't work as well as advertised. Still, The Myth provides welcome flashes of Jackie Chan's trademark cinematic panache - and even manages to throw in a surprise or two. The film is also cheesy and occasionally embarrassing, and features a SFX-enhanced ending that's best left to a standard Hollywood wannabe film. Sadly, you can't win them all.

When we're first introduced to Jackie Chan, he's playing General Meng Yi. A supreme leader and warrior, Meng Yi is assigned to receive the Emperor's latest wife, a Korean princess named Ok Soo, played by Korean megastar Kim Hee-Sun. Ok Soo's union with the Emperor isn't heavily popular with some Korean nationals, including General Choi (Choi Min-Soo), who attacks Ok Soo's entourage to get his point across. In the ensuing melee, Ok Soo is endangered, and Meng Yi and his superpowered horse (more on that later) manage to save her, but not without getting cut off from the rest of the Chinese army. Ok Soo and Meng Yi are stranded and must journey back to China alone, during which romance blooms and the overbearing orchestral score swells.

Meanwhile in the present, archaeologist Jack Lee finds himself dreaming of his past life and his love for Ok Soo...though he has no idea it's his former life. Currently, Jack is involved in a deal with scientist pal William (Tony Leung Ka-Fai, as the official "dope" of the movie). The two are investigating meteorite fragments that possess gravity-defying abilities. Basically, the rocks can make things float, and there's a coffin in Dasar, India that's proof of this special power. However, in raiding the tomb, Jack stumbles upon a painting of Ok Soo and an ancient sword that likely belonged to Meng Yi. Past and present collide, and Jack soon finds himself chasing a dream that may actually be reality. Plus there's time-outs for comedy, Jackie Chan-style action, a voluptuous yoga-practioner named Samantha (Bollywood queen Mallika Sherawat), and even more flashbacks to ancient times. Somewhere in there, there's content that's actually supposed to wring some emotion out of the audience. Emotion in a Jackie Chan film? No way.

Yes, way. Director Stanley Tong and Jackie Chan have gone on record stating that The Myth is meant to be a departure from the usual Jackie Chan norm - and it is. Sometimes. The present day story features the typical Jackie Chan stuff, i.e. a mixture of stilted exposition, amusing action and prop sequences, and uneven comedy that would probably be funnier if it were dubbed. Chan's Jack Lee is your typical nice-guy Chan character, and is ultimately as interesting as that uncle you see once a year at Christmastime. This is standard post-nineties Jackie Chan stuff, and fun for what it is. Tony Leung Ka-Fai plays an amusing "dope" character, and Mallika Sherawat is supreme eye candy, if nothing else. At its best, the modern day scenes play like a kinder, gentler version of the original Armour of God. At its worst, the scenes are like leftovers from The Accidental Spy. Thankfully, nothing here is as bad as anything in The Medallion.

The modern-day scenes are a far cry from the Qin Dynasty-era stuff, and the effect can be heavily jarring. While the present-day scenes can be eager-to-please and throwaway, the sequences set in the past go straight for the heartstrings. Meng Yi's ill-fated romance with Ok Soo is given mega importance, and the romantic sequences are presented in a disturbingly bombastic way. Stanley Tong punctuates every gooey scene with a swelling orchestral score that's overbearing and damn near laughable. If the romantic scenes work at all, it's because the insanely beautiful Kim Hee-Sun manages compelling emotions, plus Chan looks appropriately tortured as the conflicted Meng Yi (though it could just be the uncomfortable-looking helmet that makes Chan into a method actor). Regardless, the filmmakers wield a pretty heavy hammer for the emotional moments - and they're not afraid to use it. Subtlety, thy name is not Stanley Tong.

However, the scenes in the past do yield the film's best surprises. Unlike his usual "aw shucks" good guys, Jackie Chan cuts a surprisingly heroic and even tragic figure as Meng Yi. Chan gives the character a world-weary honor that's quite effective, especially during the harrowing battle sequences that reveal Meng Yi's ultimate fate. Much of The Myth is set against true Qin Dynasty lore, and while a sense of pageantry may be missing, Tong and Chan do get the most out of their Ancient China settings. Chan still engages in some nimble fisticuffs, but Meng Yi is weighed down by his sword, and armor, and the resulting effect on the action sequences almost seems to work better than the typical Chan action seen in the present-day scenes. If the goal of The Myth was giving audiences a Jackie Chan they've never seen before, then the filmmakers accomplished their mission. That it works as well as it does is practically a bonus.

Still, that's only part of the time. Unfortunately, even the Qin Dynasty-era scenes are not saved from silliness. Meng Yi's superpowered horse has supreme kicking skills, and can even deflect boulders without splintering his legs. The bad guys use normal arrows on human beings, and silly-looking big arrows on horses. The present-day stop in Dashar bleeds silliness, especially when yoga-practicing Samantha and her omnipresent navel enter the picture. Then there's the ending, which decides to take past and present plotlines and smash them together into a goes-on-forever ending that feels less like Jackie Chan, and more like Michelle Yeoh's egregious The Touch. The ending itself manages to be unlike any Jackie Chan film known to man, but that fact merely renders The Myth noteworthy, and not necessarily good. By the time the SFX-enabled ending rolls around, there are likely to be many diehard Chan fans wondering what went wrong.

They'll probably still stick around though, which is what any Chan fan would do. There's always the promise that something - anything - will occur in a Jackie Chan film that will make it more than just another movie. It's that promise of something special that makes all Jackie Chan films worth watching, even if they don't always deliver - the result of which is usually a movie that's better in parts than as a whole. The Myth sometimes does deliver, as its patchwork plotline and tone manage some moments of genuine surprise or entertainment. Jackie Chan manages to do a few new things, and when he doesn't, he compensates with some of the old. If you can ignore the silly plot, concede Chan his advancing age, and forgive Stanley Tong for China Strike Force (it's exceptionally difficult...but not metaphysically impossible), then The Myth can be a diverting yarn. Overall, the whole film isn't that good - but like any Jackie Chan film, parts of it can be. (Kozo 2005)

Awards: 25th Hong Kong Film Awards
Nomination - Best Picture
• Nomination - Best Action Design (Jackie Chan, Stanley Tong Kwai-Lai, Richard Hung)
• Nomination - Best Original Song ("Endless Love", performed by Jackie Chan, Kim Hee-Sun)
• Nomination - Best Visual Effects (Wendy Choi, David Tso)
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Joy Sales Film and Video Distributors
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
Note: 4 different Editions featuring various extras
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc

images courtesy of JCE Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen