ReviewWriter: Elaine EweWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
About halfway through the two-hour run of "Painted Skin: The Resurrection", you begin to ask yourself, why, oh why. By the end of the film, that question has probably swam around your head for the thousandth times, long enough for it to become the demon mentioned in Wu'ershan's film, making you itch to feast on the heart of the man who butchered the multiple award-winning and nominee original.
This is because "Painted Skin: The Resurrection" plays out more like an alternative spin of the original despite being touted as the sequel, with the same cast reprising their roles in a more fantastical time period save for Donnie Yen, Betty Sun and Qi Yuwu, who are replaced with Feng Shaofeng, Yang Mi and Fei Xiang. The story runs along the same lines, except that it is 500 years since the original, and Xiaowei (Zhou Xun) the fox demon has been trapped in ice to suffer for helping the humans with her powers at the end of "Painted Skin". Memerised by her beauty, Que'er (Yang Mi) decides to free her and help her on her quest become human, an attempt that requires a human heart to be given to her freely. Along the way, Xiaowei and Que'er leave a trail of victims, as Xiaowei needs to consume human hearts in order to maintain her beauty, until she runs into Princess Jing (Zhao Wei) and the man Jing loves, Huo Xin (Chen Kun).
For those who have watched the original, it is very interesting to see how the sequel deviates from that of the original, considering that Chen Kun and Zhao Wei also played lovers in "Painted Skin" who are threatened by the presence of Xiaowei. However, the plot is supplanted by overly dramatic aesthetics unlike Danish director Lars von Trier and Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-wai. There are a whole lot of slow motion actions, swirling dresses and hair, and overly conspicuous backgrounds. If anything, "Painted Skin: The Resurrection" could have been shot entirely in one location, considering the gratuitous amount of computer-generated imagery (CGI), gifting actors with chances to show off their chops through emotions and body language as opposed to dialogue. Sophisticated stuff, if you discount the fact that the scripting and dialogue are chock full of issues.
It is a wonder that Wu'ershan's film managed to pass for a P13 rating, for there are a lot of uncomfortable scenes such as the sexually ambiguous and seductive scenes involving Zhou Xun's Xiaowei and Zhao Wei's Princess Jing and Xiaowei and Chen Kun's Huo Xin. It does not help that the sound effects sound suspiciously like moaning at times. Aside from that, the soundtrack is one of the few diamonds in this rough film, for it manages to evoke the right atmosphere for each scene, such as making us sit up during the action and pulling at our heartstrings during the more heartfelt ones. Particularly notable is the song that Xiaowei sings.
It is also difficult to follow the plot of "Painted Skin: The Resurrection" as everything seems so superficial and cliche (there is the customary hero with a tortured past) until the second half, where it kicks into overdrive with Xiaowei revealing her true self and thoughts to Princess Jing. Then we are reminded of what made the original worked, for it is the thought-provoking issue of beauty versus the inner self, which is the heart. Xiaowei, a fox demon, only longs for someone to give her a heart freely in order for her to become a human in spite of all the pain that emotions bring, while Princess Jing thinks that Huo Xin cannot love her due to her scarred face. Without giving away any more plot, let's just say that the ending itself is an irony for those who have watched the original.
Despite everything, the actors are likable and the chemistry between them evident. Zhou Xun, who is known for her roles as unassuming femme fatales, dominates the movie as Xiaowei. Even when she is pretending to be someone else, she manages to radiate the fox demon evil. As her lead co-star, Zhao Wei as Princess Jing is perfectly matched against Zhou Xun in every way, demonstrating that she has indeed earned the title of China's box office darling. On the other hand, "Painted Skin: The Resurrection" also shows itself to be a female-driven film, as Chen Kun is sorely underutilised as Huo Xin, whose only traits seem to be tall, dark, talented and loyal, while Fei Xiang, the antagonist, only appears during the second half of the film. Meanwhile, the interactions between Yang Mi and Feng Shaofeng make for a good subplot, but are unfortunately underdeveloped.
In conclusion, with enough moaning sound effects and sexuality to make viewers blush, but it is only thanks to Zhou Xun and Zhao Wei's screen gravitas and brilliant visuals that renders Wu'ershan's take on Gordon Chan's supernatural fantasy drama watchable, but barely. "Painted Skin: The Resurrection" is an example of why films should not change directorial hands lest they are twisted and moulded into something else entirely and not for the better. Cinema Online, 27 June 2012