Vicki Zhao Wei and Xun Zhou in 'Painted Skin : The Resurrection'
Rating: 3 stars
The first ‘Painted Skin’ was pretty forgettable, but that hasn’t stopped Chinese film studios from producing a sequel, particularly since the Gordon Chan directed first instalment did fairly well at the box office.
In the sequel, Zhou Xun returns as Xiao Wei, a fox demon who has been on ice after the events of the first film. She attracts the attention of a bird demon Quer (Yang Mi), who frees her from her frosty prison.
Xiao Wei seeks to find a human who will give his or her heart in exchange during an upcoming solar eclipse. She stumbles onto Princess Jing (Zhao Wei), who has been disfigured by a bear and in love with the warrior-general Huo Xin (Chen Kun).
Meanwhile, Quer develops a relationship with a demon hunter and charlatan Pang (Feng Shaofeng). The plot unravels in a border city, which is under threat by the barbaric Tien Lang tribe. The tribe’s shaman (Fei Xiang, also known as Kris Philips) seeks to force Princess Jing to marry their leader, but his true intentions are hidden.
Often visually scrumptious, ‘Painted Skin: The Resurrection’ owes much of its lavish costuming to Yoshitaka Amano, famed for his work on the Japanese anime ‘Vampire Hunter D’. Undoubtedly, some of it feels derivative of other works, such as Fei Xiang’s outfit which resembles a discard from the original ‘Conan’ movies, but they do give the film a lush grandeur, even if the costumes which come from a variety of Asian influences often do seem at odds with each other.
The main problems are how the film shoves ahead before fully building up the complex web of relationships, and the characterisation comes across as rather flat. Princess Jing, who can take down several bandits single-handedly, apparently just wants to be loved by Huo Xin.
Most of the scenes just feel staged, and director Wuershan, who directed the much more grounded ‘The Butcher, the Chef and the Swordsman’, never manages to make the central love triangle convincing.
Wuershan is more comfortable with the interaction between Quer and Pang, who provide much-needed comic relief from the movie’s main arc.
Visual effects wise, the work is better than most Chinese epics, if falling far short of Hollywood standards. There is also a tone of underlying eroticism to the film that sets it apart from other recent martial art flicks that are full of special effects rather than fight scenes. The first scene where Xiao Wei and Princess Jing change skins, though well executed, is downright creepy.
Unfortunately, the film is often overwhelmed by CGI, and the human relationships never really get the chance to develop, particularly when director Wuershan distractingly plops different backdrops for the lovers.
Chockfull of strong female characters, ‘Painted Skin: The Resurrection’ never quite gets to the core of their behaviour, and Chen Kun just seems to go with the flow.
Drawing from a multitude of other influences, like the ‘Game of Thrones’ TV series, ‘300’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’, ‘Painted Skin: The Resurrection’ never quite becomes comfortable with itself, but it does have several potent moments.