Sakra (2023)

Directed by
Nearly a classic
Reviewed by Simon on 2023-03-31

Based on Jin Yong's Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils, also the source for Battle Wizard and Maidens Of Heavenly Mountain.

The production values on Donnie Yen's new wuxia film are through the roof, it's a beautiful looking film, rather painterly - not quite Zhang Yimou levels of gorgeous, but not that far off.

There's also some really impressive action, which I guess you would hope was the case with Donnie leading in front of and behind the camera. Some are going to hate the amount of CGI involved, but I like the fact it tries something new, it feels like we're seeing something we haven't seen before.

I also really like the fact that even with the extravagant actions being performed and the amount of CGI added in post-production, the topology and geography of the fight is always clear, with each action flowing logically into the next.

For the first half the film is quite measured in its pacing, which is frankly a relief given the historical tendency of Jin Yong adaptations to try and squeeze several books worth of plot and characters in. Here the focus is kept on a manageable cast and only really one plot thread.

For some reason the first half of the film takes up like 80% of the running time though, 30 minutes before the end a bunch of new characters are introduced and the film whistles through a series of plot developments at breakneck speed, not spending nearly enough time on any of them to develop them properly (at all). I can only assume the film was intended to be a 2-parter and that what should have been an entire film was squashed into 10-15 minutes. Actually a 3-parter I guess, since it still introduces more characters right at the end to set up a sequel.

It's a shame, as it seriously undermines the build up to that point and undercuts the viewer's investment in the outcome, such that the final fight, epic as it is, doesn't have nearly the same impact as the midpoint peak.

I note that the internet has decided that this is A Bad Film - you guys need to try and remember how to have fun! This is easily the most interesting wuxia I can think of in recent years.