“Eminently forgettable. And I’ve now watched it twice, just to prove that.”
Though I couldn’t put my finger on why, large chunks of this seemed very familiar when I was watching it last night. Maybe it was just the story, cut from a template [mystical book, blah, chosen one, blah-blah, key to all power, etc.] we’ve seen a million times before. But then, when I Googled the film’s title, I realised why: at #6 was my review on our other, non-GWG site, from back in October 2005 when this came out on DVD [which I’ve just seen contains basically the same ‘blah’ line as above. Hey, if I had to watch this twice, you can read it twice. It’s the least you can do]. It made little impact on me then, and it hasn’t improved with time. The main problem is its absolute failure to stand on its own: the movie ends just as the heroine heads off towards the evil emperor who holds said mystical book, which only she can read. The aim was, apparently, to make a trilogy, but three years later, we’re still waiting for any word of the sequel. The moral is, if you’re going to make a series, either get your cash lined up in advance (as in Lord of the Rings), or make your first film capable of working by itself (see The Matrix) – otherwise, you’ll be left with something that looks utterly unfinished.
That aside, this is also not exactly enthralling. While the fight sequences are not bad, they are nowhere near frequent enough, and the first hour in particular is turgidly-paced. Seki (Matiko) is sent into exile for her own protection, as the only person standing between the emperor and world domination. There, her blind sifu (Amendola) teaches her magic and self-defense, while the emperor eventually sends out his sons to look for her – albeit after first waiting a couple of decades for her to grow up. It’s nice to see a good number of Asian-American actors getting decent roles, even if there there is a random mix of ethnicity that detracts from any real sense of time or place. It seems to be trying for some kind of Princess Bride-like vibe, yet the clunky set-up approach taken here would likely tax the patience of even a moderately-impatient eight-year old. Maybe they should have started in the middle, like Star Wars: the second episode has to be better than the first, largely because it can’t be much worse.
Dir: Jimmy Nickerson
Star: Marie Matiko, Sung Yang, Karl Yune, Tony Amendola