Friday, May 2, 2014

Stream it! Tsui Hark's YOUNG DETECTIVE DEE: RISE OF THE SEA DRAGON -- beauty in action

Imagine, if you will, Creature from the Black Lagoon, given a full-bore Asian update -- with all the color and pyrotechnics and undersea/up-on-land, ancient maritime/ martial arts action you could require, plus a sweet love story, and a plot that goes the original maybe ten times better, while morphing into a lovely fairy tale for kids and teens -- and you just might have an idea of the great beauty and fun to be found in Tsui Hark's delightful sequel to his original (and also delightful) Detective Dee movie, YOUNG DETECTIVE DEE: RISE OF THE SEA DRAGON.

Made in 3D (just as was the original Black Lagoon guy, back in 1954), the riot of color in gorgeous compositions and set pieces may be one of those rare sequels to outdo its original -- which was also pretty damned good. Mr. Tsui (shown at left), a Vietnam-born filmmaker who has worked mostly in China and for a short time here in the U.S.has quite a record as producer, director, writer, even actor and editor. As they say, he knows the ropes. As both spectacle and big-budget moviemaking, YDD: ROTSD delivers the good as well as just about anything else TrustMovies has seen in a long time. I have no idea of what this film cost to make, but I swear that every penny is up there on the screen -- in beauty and pleasure.

In the original Dee, the character was older (played by Andy Lau), super-smart of course, and still able to fight. Here, as a young man (Mark Chao, above), he's equally smart, fit and rather sexy in his own quiet manner. The story features not only the titular sea monster but that Black Lagoon-like creature, as well, and it's his tale of love for a prized courtesan that helps bring the movie to added life.

We also see again that iron-willed and not-so-nice Empress, embodied by the powerful Carina Lau (below), and our hero find himself up against a combination foe/friend/soul-mate who is constantly getting in his way and then helping him, along with sundry other characters, good and evil. For pulchritude, there a lovely actress named Angelababy (above, but isn't she embarrassed to sport  a moniker like that?)

Betrayals, battles, and one knockout sequence in which our heroes must fight for their lives while scaling a sheer cliff, there's all this and more. Then midway along we discover that our hero has one vey sizeable weak point -- not helpful in battling at sea.

There's some humor here, too, plus sets and costumes of such bountiful glory as to be immediate Oscar qualifiers (if the Academy members ever deigned to see a movie like this one), and even end credits that features yet more laughs -- if you're inclined to sit through the extra ten minutes.

The special effects department has come up with a fabulous sea monster, and the concluding battle is terrific. This movie took me back to my childhood with its enormous sense of charm and wonder, though of course we never saw anything this spectacular in those days. It puts Hollywood's supposed blockbusters mostly to shame.

YDD:ROTSD (in Chinese with English subtitles and running two hours and 14 minutes), which is said to have received a limited theatrical run here in the U.S. but seems to have managed to get no reviews at all, is available to view now via Netfix streaming (where it looks simply ravishing in high definition -- even without the 3D) and elsewhere, too. If you're in the mood, moviewise, to be a kid again, don't miss it.

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