Tuesday, October 18, 2011

[Film Trailer] MURAL: Strange and Inspiring Fantasy

As much genre influence as Hong Kong films have had on American cinema, there is one genre where Hong Kong's influence has yet to have significant impact on American film making. Every modern American action film has some touch of the gunfu and kung fu films of Hong Kong's heyday, but one rarely sees touches from amazing fantasy spectacles like The Bride with White Hair, Dragon Inn, or Warrior of Zu Magic Mountain in American productions.

When we do get film influenced by HK fantasy films -- with the exception of John Carpenter's magical Big Trouble in Little China -- the American adaptations/translations are mere shadows of what could be cinematically.  It's as if Western film makers are afraid to truly push the envelope regarding what a fantasy story can be.  The Forbidden Kingdom is a perfect example.  The film stars two of Hong Kong's greatest actors, yet the film makers decided to add an American protagonist and to mute the fantastic elements of Sun Wu Kung's tale.  The movie is an inelegant patchwork of a number of wonderful tales.  Even when talented Hong Kong directors make films with elements of HK fantasy, like Warriors of Virtue, the fantasy is targeted at young children and the warriors become kangaroo versions of Ninja Turtles.  In these fantasy translations, the "anything can happen" narrative and the "nothing is too extreme" attitude of HK fantasy is lost, only to be replaced with tamer shadows that hint at what could have been.  There are moments of The Forbidden Kingdom and Warriors of Virtue  that shine through, but they are only enough to make the film's moderately entertaining when they could have been spectacular.

Thankfully for fans of Hong Kong fantasy, and you should really be one, the HK film industry is still making fantasy spectaculars.  This September saw the release of Gordon Chan's latest film Mural.  The movie is an adaptation from Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio a classic collection of Chinese fantasy stories of Vampires, Ghosts, and Magic.  Gordon Chan's Fist of Legend is one of the best martial arts films ever created, and if this trailer is any hint we might be in for something special with Mural.  Let's hope it gets released stateside soon.


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