I’ll probably get some resentment for actually watching, loving, and reviewing this film. I don’t support China at all nor do I support Communism and their treatment of the Uighur Muslims. I'm also for the Democracy of Hong Kong, so sue me if I happen to love this one movie from China.
Based off the Legend of the White Snake, which is a mythical folklore, and from a Chinese play that's been around for centuries... this movie focuses on a white snake-demon, named Blanca and her sister, Verta, the green snake-demon.
Now, there was a similar movie that came out in 2011, called The Sorcerer and The White Snake. It featured Jet Li and the special effects in this movie are very outdated.
Jet Li is supposedly a spiritual monk in this film, but I don't know why they call him a Sorcerer. He just moves really fast and says a few charms... that's it. That kind of threw me off the loop, since the title is not entirely accurate. Maybe it was lost in translation?
I think they should've stuck with a cartoon, because it would've probably been better and easier to work with in that 2D style. The CGI snakes in this movie are noticeable fake and even though they're flexible sometimes, other times they come off as rigged or janky looking.
They seem off throughout the movie and didn't blend in with the scenery nor the backgrounds. You can clearly tell when they're in front of a green screen or in a studio set. In addition, I found the acting in this older film to be very melodramatic and a little over the top (like a play), but it is what it is.
There's actual 3D models that the studio made for each character design and it's truly impressive stuff. All made from a computer, and I have to say that it's even better than Pixar and Disney combined. All the characters and their choice of clothing reflect who they are (their social status or race), but it's creative and so uniquely designed.
But please don't get the wrong idea. It may feature slight nudity and some sexual situations, but it's not the focus of the entire film. In fact, the movie focuses on two races fighting each other to the death and about the working class being suppressed by the elites. It talks about discrimination and political themes, which was surprising, because it's not bashing you over the head with it.
The main character may be strong, but she has flaws and doesn't want to be involved with the war against the humans. Once again, the character designs are simply incredible (even the transformations) and you can easily tell there was much thought and effort into each one.
Blanca is rescued by a human male, a snake hunter, I think his name is Xuan. Xuan lives in this village next to the mountains. Apparently, everyone in his whole town is dedicated to hunting snakes for the Emperor. Little do they know that Blanca is a snake-demon and that the Emperor is trying to kill all the snakes in the world, so he can harvest their energy and become a God.
FYI: At the beginning of the movie, Blanca was fighting the Emperor and ended up getting seriously injured. She lost all her memories due to that fight.
After saving Xuan’s dog, Blanca and the boy form a friendship. Xuan tries to help Blanca recovery her lost memories, so they go on this journey to find out where exactly she came from... eventually, falling in love with each other, which is forbidden in this world.
There’s a side story dealing with the Queen of the Snakes and Verta that I think should’ve been explored some more. It could be due to time restraints or maybe not enough budget, so they probably had to reduce the time and cut out scenes of dialogue.
Despite everything, Blanca still has a good heart and tries to protect Xuan throughout their adventure. Even though Xuan isn’t very strong, he decides to get help from a fox-demon girl (who is creepy as hell), but her design was visually unique... Xuan sacrifices something in return to try to save Blanca.
When the fox-demon girl shows up, they reveal the world that she lives in, and by then, I was deeply invested in the film. I didn't understand some of the rules, since I'm not familiar with all the myths of Chinese folklore, but I did get the gist of what was going on.
Loved the scenes with fox-demon, despite that she looks quite young, but she was an interesting character overall. Xuan's dog does end up talking and he's a little annoying, but he comes around and becomes a better dog, believe it or not.
Grant it, they may have copied a few things here and there, because I did feel like I was watching Spirited Away (2001) all over again. No disrespect to the director or the artists, who made this movie. Just that the world-building was pretty vibrant and expansive it reminded me of Spirited Away. The only thing similar is probably these floating heads and that was it.