#MovieMonday: Review of The Knight Of Shadows: Between Yin And Yang, Jackie Chan’s CNY 2019 Movie

Image: YouTube (Shaw Theatres)

It’s the Chinese New Year season, and Singapore has been pretty busy, what with the providence of red packets, reluctant relative greetings and ban luck winning streaks.

Image: SupChina

But it’s not just the local scene that’s abuzz with activity, for over in the box office a crowd has gathered too. With the limited number of activities one could do in Singapore (or anywhere else for the record), it’s only a matter of time before families turn to the oldest trick of entertainment there is; a movie.

And this 2019, there’s quite a few good CNY flicks out there for everyone’s perusal too. Killer Not Stupid, for example, is local director Jack Neo’s maiden action flick; and judging from his track record I’ve no reason to believe that this one would be any different.

The Lego Movie 2 is another promising one, what with a really stellar prequel that garnered really rave reviews. But this festive season, I headed to the cinemas with local beauty prettygirl99, not to catch the aforementioned movies, but another rather prominent one:

Jackie Chan’s blockbuster monster flick.

Image: Martial Arts Action Cinema

And that begets the question: how was the movie, and is it actually worth the hefty ticket price? In response, I answer with but a single word:

Surprising.

Premise

For those unaware, The Knight of Shadows: Between Yin and Yang is a blockbuster fantasy flick that revolves around a wizened demon hunter, who apart from capturing demons (think Pokemon but more evil Jessie and James) at his own convenience, also indulges in the sale of books to clueless villagers. Incidentally, IMDb lists the film’s synopsis as such:

A legendary demon hunter (Jackie Chan), tracking down beasts that enter the human dimension, assisted by a lawman protégé and a motley group of friendly monsters.

The film stars Jackie Chan as titular character Pu Song Ling, Elane Zhong as Nie Xiao Qian and Ethan Juan as Ning Cai Cheng. The film’s trailer was released last month (January).

Concept

Over the last few years, monster flicks have been quite an attraction for the Chinese audience (don’t know whether it’s because I’m Chinese). In 2015, it was Monster Hunt, a fantasy/science flick that made a whopping US$383.5 million against its US$56 million budget. In 2018, it was its sequel Monster Hunt 2, a film that grossed US$361.7 million against a US$143 million budget.

A 34YO "old-virgin" S'porean was desperately looking for a boyfriend and surprisingly, she really found one online. But the intentions of the man will make you cry. Prepare tissue paper to watch this video based on real events:

Image: FandangoNOW

And really, it’s a no-brainer that movie studios will jump on a proven recipe, and with an established star like Jackie Chan in the fray, it seems set to become yet another successful monster flick.

But did it fulfil all the expectations it undoubtedly garnered? 

In this review, I chronicle three elements: enjoyment, validity and must-watch value, and determine whether the film actually lived up to its immeasurable potential. Take note, however, that this is a personal review, and opinions might differ. But if you’re fine with that, I say… let’s go on with the review.

Enjoyment 

First things first, I’m not exactly what you would call a ‘hardcore animation fan’. While I’ve watched my fair share of cartoons and animations, I wouldn’t consider myself top-notch in the art of recognising animation quality.

And yet, that’s perhaps why I had no gripes with the film’s animation qualities. Sure, it wasn’t exactly impressive, but it wasn’t bad either. To the animators’ credit, the designs were convincing enough to mesh in well with the storyline, and the animated characters, too, were quite appealing.

Prettygirl99, for one, was raving about how cute some of the characters were, and I agreed. In that aspect, I think it did pretty well, considering how it’s a reality/animation film and all.

Image: Dread Central
Image:
ABS-CBN Star Cinema
Youtube

Cinematography wise, I feel that the film was, on the whole, pretty fluid. Scenes flowed into place, and nothing really felt like additional baggage, save for perhaps a few parts that I will touch on later.

The costume designs, lighting and accompanying soundtracks were also pretty on point, though I do wish to compliment the make-up artists in question because geezus that’s some terrific make-up going on in the movie.

Acting wise, I’ve nothing against it either. Jackie Chan was at his goofy best, and actor Po-Hung Lin, who played as Chan’s bumbling sidekick, played his role well. Elane Zhong and Ethan Juan, who play as ill-fated lovers in the movie, carried out the required emotions to a near-perfect T, and Peng Lin was impeccable in her portrayal of the film’s main villain. All in all, there were no faults in the acting department as far as I’m concerned.

On the whole, the film’s pretty enjoyable, with cute characters, a surprising storyline (because you never actually expected the movie to go that way) and a generally appealing presentation. In fact, I would have thoroughly enjoyed it had the story not dragged itself out rather unnecessarily, a point I shall make in the next segment.

Validity

I’m sure everyone knows it, but in the film industry there are primarily two types of films, and no I’m not talking about +18 and -18 films.

I’m talking about good and bad.

And it’s such a waste, because The Knight of Shadows: Yin and Yang could have been a good film. Had it not fallen to the ploy of ‘over-extending’ itself.

In the film, we come to a point where the main storyline has all but absolved itself, and it does feel like an apt ending for the movie: one that allows us to leave the cinema with a ‘curiously satisfied’ palate.

But the film producers didn’t choose to keep it that way. No, they had to do something about it. As a result, what ensued was a 20-30 minute playtime of utter and nonsensical babble, a setting of such ludicrous extensions that I can’t help but wonder whether the scriptwriters actually intended for this part, or that the animators requested the time-slot to show some of those deft animation skills off.

Though whatever it is, I’m definitely not impressed, and I have a feeling the rest of the cinema wasn’t either. As prettygirl99 so aptly asked me:

“What’s going on?”

Yeah, I have no idea too.

Must-Watch Value

Honestly speaking, I’m rather divided on this one. On one hand the film does contain enough elements to constitute as a successful CNY flick, yet on the other hand the unnecessary drawing out just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Of course, you could leave the cinema when THAT scene hits, but I think it’s kind of impractical to actually do it. 

Image: Gifer

And so in that aspect, I’ll really leave the decision to you, though perhaps you can judge from my personal score for the film:

Rating: 3/5