Sunday, July 7, 2019

White Snake (2019) NYAFF 2019

Playing at the New York Asian Film Festival before getting a release in the US from GKIDS White Snake is an animated retelling of the classic tale of a snake goddess who ends up falling in love a young man tasked with hunting and killing snakes. In this version of the story the romance is complicated by the inclusion of a dark lord with a big army trying to take over the country.

This is a spectacular animated martial arts film that takes the recent spate of Chinese CGI heavy fantasy films to their logical conclusion. It is truly a wondrous thing to see, especially on the big screen as the image envelope us and take us to another time and place.

The film is an odd mix of family friendly adventure and adult bits which makes this a tonally odd film at times. Sometimes moving like the wind as if it is trying to hold the attention of the younger set the film will put in play certain adult ideas that make the film seem to be striving to be more than just a kids film. At the same time the amped up action which is wonderfully cartoony sometimes is capped off by a little bit of graphic violence as bad guys are run through and blood splurches. While I have no trouble with animation for adults or for animation that is realistic, the mix of adult and family, while not jarring or wholly out of place, isn’t always blended well as I was left wondering who this was made for.

Several days on after seeing the film I’m still trying to work out what I think about it. As I said above the film is spectacular both in shot composition and action sequences, but I’m not sure of the rest. While most assuredly a good solid film you should see I’m dealing with a gnawing feeling that the film should have been great instead of just good. I suspect part of it is the result of GKids picking the film up, and partly because it moves so fast it breezes though some moments that would have given the film a bit of weight.

Then again I’m probably not the intended audience.

Regardless of my feelings definitely worth a look, especially if you can see it big where the images will overwhelm you.

White Snake plays later today at NYAFF. It will also be screening at Fantasia in Montreal at the end of July.

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