The Sorcerer And The White Snake (2011)

Directed by
6/10 - Pretty, but nothing to write home about
Reviewed by Simon on 2011-12-19

Another remake of the classic story, at heart a love story concerning the trials and tribulations involved with dating a snake demon. Miss White Snake and Miss Green Snake are inhabiting the human realm after some time spent meditating to improve their spirits. Green Snake (Charlene Choi) mischievously endangers a herbalist, but the more spiritually advanced White Snake saves him. The save involves a kiss, and from there springs a strong, binding love between spirit and human.

Jet Li plays the chief demon-hunting monk of the area, banishing dangerous demons and praying for their souls. He does not approve of a snake/human relationship, thinking that no good can come from any relationship between spirit and mortal. Is he proven right, or are his beliefs self-fulfilling?

TS&TWS doesn't deviate too far from previous tellings of the story, just adding its own little details and variations to the basic unchanged themes. I can never quite decide whether the human/spirit relationship difficulties are supposed to be a metaphor for human/human relationships, or just a meditation on a situation few of us are likely to find ourselves in.

It does seem to be the season for updating classics with modern technology and production values (once more). As you'd expect of a fantasy/supernatural film in the modern day, TS&WS uses a lot of CGI. Some of it is quite lovely, mostly some gorgeous environments and backdrops and some cool water effects... some of it looks rather cheap and plastically (most notably, the snakes). I'd say it lacks the lush beauty of Tsui Hark's 1994 take on the story (Green Snake), though I imagine that film's age and budget would show if I were to rewatch it now. Somehow, cheap realia never looks quite as conspicuous as cheap CGI though.

Action scenes, such as there are, are almost entirely done with CGI - lots of waving of arms and special effects shooting off in all directions. Sometimes it looks pretty damn cool, sometimes it's a bit yawn-worthy.

Special mention must be made of the music, which is almost omnipresent and overbearingly sentimental and intrusive - something more understated would have been much better... the tragic love story is overwraught enough without needing audio reinforcements.

Acting is passable without being in any way remarkable - even Jet Li doesn't seem to be making too much effort with his character.

So, overall, nothing to write home about, but a pleasing enough time waster with some nice eye candy. Worth a look, but unlikely to make anybody's list of favourites.

See also