Most cinephiles crow at the idea of any filmmaker reapproaching a film with the idea of remaking or rebooting it in some capacity. There’s no arguing, however, that there are definitely times when it serves the masses well and there are certainly some examples in that regard. For this, folks who’ve seen Yuen Woo-Ping’s Miracle Fighters can best judge for themselves how his latest, The Thousand Faces Of Dunjia, bodes for its current delivery.
The movie is definitely not the remake it was initially reported to be in earlier updates as much as both are their own films, although the two play in the same millieu with respect to wuxia and sorcery. It was Yuen who himself stated he aimed at redefining wuxia with this particular project along with the help of longtime cohort Tsui Hark producing and writing. Rather, it is worth suggesting the film settles for slightly less expectations despite such ambitions, as there’s only so much you can achieve with continually questionable visual effects on film.
Still, the film largely achieves imagineable, albeit thrilling family-friendly entertainment for the most part. Aarif Lee stars as Dao, a hapless yet physically fit and able-bodied constable who gets swept into the throes of a longstanding feud between supernatural forces of evil, and the Wuyin clan – unit of studious, vigilant warriors sworn to protect mankind from them. And the crux of this rivalry: The search for several pieces to an ancient puzzle that can construct ultimate power – an orb known as Qimen, a device known as Dunjia, an object known as The Destroyer Of Worlds, and a young girl with know memory of her past or identity, save for a circular mark on her arm that can ultimately determine the fate of the Wuyin clan, or its annihilation along with the rest of mankind.
The film itself is full of comedic jest with some moments of poignancy featuring lead actress Ni Ni and actor Da Peng leading much of the banter as Dragonfly and Zheng, the two of several senior members of Wuyin next to Big Brother, played by Taiwan’s own Wu Bai. Much is ado with rules pertaining to inhibiting expressions of affection with slaps in the face as penalty for violating the rule, truly lending the film its “slap” characteristics of slapstick fervor when applied. The alluring Zhou Dongyu charms as the young and coy Circle, found in a dungeon clinic during Zheng’s search for Wuyin’s prophetic leader. Opposite the film’s remaining human cast are several discernible creatures per the film’s narrative: A man-eating fish and a winged alien named Red Eye who frees a power-hungry creature long imprisoned underground named White Tiger.
Say what you will about the visuals from there. It’s something that can’t be helped unless some serious technical aspects are improved apart from some of the other set pieces which look perpetually amazing in comparison along with key background shots and costumes. Emotive drive runs amply nearing the third act in the scenes featuring our Wuyin heroes as they battle superpowered clan leaders under White Tiger’s influence.
Intrigue, spectacle are healthily served in Hark’s script with some delightful twists and turns and high energy performances, and a dose of extra levity in mid-credits to bookend this segmented fantasy wuxia offering from Yuen and the crew. Sequel potential is worth circulating should box office success ensue and if filmmakers are willing while noting The Thousand Faces Of Dunjia is not for everyone who happens to be a Yuen fan, unless you’re a collectivist or even open-minded in which case, have at it!