Last night I saw “Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame” and BOY was that awesome. . . in every possible sense.
This movie was such a peculiar blend of genius and utter incompetence. Even I know it was wildly inaccurate historically – and while the “rule of cool” says that the giant Buddha statue was fine, it doesn’t speak up when the empress disguises herself with a 1920s hat. The subtitles were very poorly done, which just emphasises the fact that whoever was in charge of this film was just LAZY in so many ways.
The wild leaps of plot and intrigue went way beyond the oriental norm, and the deer high priest was. . . well, whatever. There was plenty of random preachiness, and an oddly flolloping pace. The special effects were unintentionally retro, with no irony whatsoever. The spontaneous human combustions were nice and gory, though – so don’t take your kids.
But the characters were truly interesting – and the resolution was genuinely unique. The acting was often stilted, but it was interesting all the same. I really liked Detective Dee, and the main girl, and the empress. And there was a good range of perfectly adequate eye candy, which is always nice.
The fight scenes were sort of really stupid, but at least it was clear the writers were trying. I liked the scene in which Detective Dee yells out where his blind friend should punch, and the much later scene where he climbs up and around statues while getting attacked by deer.
I saw it at the ANU film group, and all the pain of the movie was worth the roomful of hilarity when Detective Dee went in search of his old friend Donkey Wang. . . the one with scabies.
As an exercise in both very good and very bad film-making, this movie is sublime.
As an actual movie, it’s slightly less good than a punch in the face.