Four priests from the four temple schools, Masters Qingming (Mark Chao, in white), Boya (Allan Deng, in black), Longye (Jessie Li) and Hongruo, were summoned by the Empress to the Imperial City to revive the Guardian spirits against the evil Serpent spirit who had been reincarnated. However, when the elderly master Hongruo died unexpectedly, the Empress, via her representative Princess Changping (Olivia Wang), named her confidante, Master He Shouyue (Wang Duo), high priest of the Imperial Palace, to replace him in the mission.
From the trailer, it was apparent that "The Yin-Yang Master: Dream of Eternity" would be one of those Chinese historical wuxia fantasy films, but I did not expect this would be this spectacular. You can clearly see the budget in the lavish sets, ornate costumes, hairstyles and make-up, for which the filmmakers clearly spared no expense. That Imperial Palace alone was expansive and gorgeous and they made sure you believe everything was real by having people walking in the background. The city built around the palace was likewise remarkable with all its elaborate little details.
Granted the visual effects were obviously computer-generated and can be cheesy (especially those magical "Doctor Strange"-like circular portals), but the fineness of the graphic quality exceeded my expectations for a Chinese production. This film was replete with numerous spectacular supernatural creatures and battles, like hair demons, spirit servants, mystical weapons, tracking tadpoles, moving puppets, and of course, the humongous giant Serpent on whose very body the masters were fighting to save the whole world.
The six main characters both good and evil were played by attractive young actors and actresses, whose looks were enhanced by their flowing costumes and flawless make-up. The rapport and chemistry between the two lead actors Mark Chao and Allan Deng undoubted added to the entertainment value of this film. The writer-director Guo Jingming naughtily injected some kind of bromance element between Qingming and Boya, something which surely can elicit thrills with their female fans.
Overall, this fantasy adventure film was very engaging once you get into its initially convoluted drift and get all the characters all figured out. Despite the complex multilayered plot and 132-minute running time, every subplot seemed to have been clearly resolved and you hardly feel the time ticking away, such that you'd still be wanting a sequel by the end.
This film was not all magical battles and monsters, there was a light sense of humor in the proceedings, as well as an angle of time-tested romance to spice things up.
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."