TIFF 2012: Tai Chi 0

Posted by Sandstorm in Movies, Offbeat, Reviews on September 17th, 2012.
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Chinese martial arts meet Scott Pilgrim in this (positively) crazy movie

After enjoying my first TIFF experience very much (read the review here) I decided to check out another screening before the festival ended. That movie was Tai Chi 0. From the beginning of the film it’s very clear that you shouldn’t take it very seriously. In the opening scene we see a battlefield full of warriors when we are being notified that on this battlefield, among these warriors there is a “freak”. This freak is Yang Lu Chan (Daniel Wu), a prodigy who was born with a flesh horn that gives him a very high mastery of kung fu.

In the movie the character’s prime concern is learning a different form of Kung-­‐fu because the current form he uses apparently kills him. This is more or less the full depth of the plot, but as I said earlier, it doesn’t take itself very seriously so this movie doesn’t strive to shine it that compartment. Fortunately enough, it does shine in a few others.


Yang Lu Chan vs. The world!

People who are familiar with the Scott Pilgrim movie and liked it will feel right at home. The film relies heavily on all kinds of visual effects, from game effects, to name-­‐tags to a multiple-­‐choice question to illustrate a thought process. But the craziness doesn’t stop there. One part of the movie is in the style of a silent movie, one part is partly animated and to top it of it contains a healthy amount of steampunk. And if you’re wondering, yes it looks awesome. This whole esthetic is for sure the biggest selling point of the movie.

The humor in the movie is a weird kind of fun you only find in Chinese movies. The jokes are all quite innocent, be it very weird. People are being dubbed idiots a lot, small kids kick ass, people communicate through a donkey… Fun stuff. However, the pacing of this movie has its problems.

There is a lot of not very interesting exposition and as a result big and impressive martial arts sequences are scarce. Having been spoiled by watching The Raid recently, I probably am a bit harsher than I would be if I hadn’t. Where The Raid focused completely on the martial arts and action, and in that way delivered some of the most polished and impressive action scenes ever, this movie spends an awful lot of time on a romantic subplot that never really got me to care… and I’m all for romantic subplots normally. Also, some of the performances are questionable and while this movie doesn’t strive to be a serious one, some of the scenes (especially those with English spoken by the Chinese cast) weren’t camp enough to laugh about, and not serious enough to escape from that awkward place in between them.

While I never got bored, I think I the movie would have benefitted from a somewhat more action-­‐orientated approach, which I expected. Also, this movie was supposed to be in 3D, but it was screened in 2D at the TIFF. Which is a shame, because these types of movies can really benefit from 3D.


Tai Chi Zero or Hero?

All in all I still enjoyed this movie. While it never blew me away, it still is a fun movie to watch with a very distinct and different style. Also, the movie ended with a promising, more action laden trailer for the sequel. Yes, there’s going to be a sequel, Tai Chi Hero, and yes, that’s where I ripped my paragraph head from.

In fact this series is going to be a trilogy and you can see why. The whole style and setting for the movie has a lot of potential. So if in the sequels they fix the pacing a bit, they could jump from enjoyable to real good. This first entry in the series, though not without serious flaws, provided me enough fun to enjoy myself, and left me intrigued to see what’s in store for us in the future.

So if you have an open space in your agenda, be sure to give this movie a visit.

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