Painted Skin: The Resurrection
Studio: Ningxia Film Studio
Publisher: Vendetta Films/Pinnacle Films
Format: DVD (Screener Reviewed), Blu-Ray
Release Date: January 9, 2013
Price: $15.78 (Available Here)
Painted Skin: The Resurrection is a supernatural fantasy film that took the Chinese box office by storm, becoming their highest grossing domestic film in history. A sequel to 2008’s Painted Skin, the 2013 blockbuster brings back together many of the original cast, although for the most part they play completely different roles; the one true constant is Zhou Xun as Xiaowei, the Fox demon. To a westerner who, while being a fan of foreign cinema, has not seen Painted Skin before it, I was intrigued by The Resurrection. Have the film-makers painted a masterpiece, or is the resurrection short-lived?…
The Resurrections carries on from the first film as we see the ancient fox spirit, or “demon”, Xiaowei entombed in her prison of ice. Along comes a bird demon, Que’r, who cracks open the ice and releases her. The two journey together, searching for the one man who would willingly give his heart to Xiaowei to devour so that she may become mortal and escape the far-reaching, forever-pursuing cold that aims to imprison her once again. After an unnecessary time-skip of one month, we see Xiaowei being chased by unidentified men. This leads to a masked avenger of sorts, coming to her aid and rescuing her. Xiaowei believes this mystery man to be the one who will offer his heart, but he resists her charms – something that no man is supposed to be able to do.
It is revealed that the man is actually a woman…and no ordinary woman, but Princess Jing (Zhao Wei). She is travelling in to the White City to see Huo Xin (Chen Kun), a general whom she was infatuated with 8 years prior. She wishes to rekindle that spark with Huo Xin, but Huo Xin is haunted by the time he couldn’t save her from a black bear, who clawed her face and left her disfigured – the reason she wears a solid gold half-mask. He does not believe himself worthy of her love, which is the catalyst for her seeking any way possible to be with him…including offering her heart to Xiaowei in order to live in her image as he was already shown to be enthralled by her.
However, Princess Jing is arranged to marry a Prince of the Tianlang clan, and has been ignoring her responsibility to do so. Because of this, the Tianlang march to the gates of the White City, finding her actions to be a declaration of war. And so, the Princess and Xiaowei make the desired deal to essentially swap lives. Let’s just say that the two come to regret that decision. The story is repetitive in it’s hook of “changing skin” and the slow burn of a 130 minute runtime is just too much to sit through without getting bored.
The love triangle, of sorts, is where the heart of the film lays, and it portrays a nice sentiment. But the length at which the screenwriters have gone just to come to the same old predictable conclusion of nearly every romance film out there is ludicrous. And when the acting is almost as bad as the script, then you know you’ve got a film that has few redeeming qualities. Chen Kun has this constant, blank look on his face – I don’t know if he’s supposed to be confused, hurt, in shock or sad. It’s all the same expression here. Setting aside 2 hours to sit through a convoluted love story with less than average acting shouldn’t appeal to anyone.
Visuals & Audio
Painted Skin: The Resurrection has very few shining moments in the visuals department. They don’t come from the special effects or compositing, which are equally bad (B-Grade, straight to-DVD quality stuff). They mostly come from the costume design and use of colour throughout. The costumes of the Tianlang clan in particular look great and bring a unique character to their people. Although dressed in all black, which isn’t exactly original, they bring with them a sense of danger when they arrive on the scene. The editing, however, is atrocious in moments, primarily during action scenes. Movements and shots are sped-up and then immediately slowed down, disorienting the viewer and causing them to miss details all together. I have no idea whose brilliant idea that was and how the Director/Producers could okay those edits.
The music is consistently over-dramatic when contrasted with the comical, colourful visuals and acting. Speaking of comical acting, Fei Xiang (born Kris Phillips) plays the Witch Doctor of Tianlang and having to learn, memorise and speak a completely fabricated language for the role seemed to be a tough challenge. His cadence and accent sounded like that of a person who is a complete foreigner attempting to speak the local dialect, but is terribly transparent in doing so. Can’t blame him though; the director insisted on created this new language which was not entirely necessary.
Something I felt was really silly was the fact that the “demons” in their human forms, would make the noises of their respective animal spirit. For instance, Que’r – the bird demon – would cock her head as a human and, every time, a bird’s ‘coo’ would be heard. And then there’s the subtitles, which were terribly translated; “tempurature“, “the hold it just like her highness”, “your last change to be with”…whoever translated it and worked on the print probably can’t speak English themselves. Or maybe it was some program that no one bothered to double-check. Either way, it was really inaccurate.
Before I continue with my overall impressions, I just want to clarify that with this copy we reviewed being a screener, there were no special features or even menus, so I can’t comment on those aspects of the DVD release. Painted Skin: The Resurrection is a mess of a film. Anyone outside of the Chinese culture will not like this film. It’s a Chinese-made film, for a Chinese audience, who are used to the fantastical, romanticised, melodramatic drivel that it is. But the story isn’t the sole fault of the film, nor necessarily is it the prevailing one. It’s the sum of it’s parts that ultimately lets the film down.
The acting is, for the most part, mediocre, the editing choices are awful, the visual effects are sub-par, it’s over-long by at least 30 minutes and the fact that the subtitles are often nonsensical due to poor translation doesn’t help. I couldn’t wait for the film to end, and that’s a rarity for me. Has it got heart? (pun intended) Yes, it does. But that’s about all. If only the film could paint itself a new skin…