Even at his age, Jackie Chan can still put on an amazing show. His beautifully choreographed brawls still have the speed, style, and humor to make them each a memorable romp regardless of the setting. Still, even Chan needs some help, and The Myth has overused CG, an impossibly awful ending, and sloppy mistakes surrounding the otherwise enjoyable action scenes.
Set in two eras, The Myth jumps back and forth between present day and early China. Chan plays two characters, General Meng-yi in ancient times and Jack, his reincarnate. This leads to gorgeous variety in the visuals, moving from India, modern China, and open plains of the undeveloped country. There’s more than enough here to keep someone visually interested in the film, and that’s in addition to some wildly fun fights.
Swapping between eras in time happens perfectly. The switches are edited properly, and it’s never confusing or jarring to the viewer. Both stories have solid pacing, properly mixing action and dialogue to keep the film moving.
Problems creep up when the special effects take over. During a battle in ancient times, Chan rides a horse which begins kicking enemy soldiers in a laughably bad sequence that destroys the care taken to create sets and costumes for authenticity. Modern times have some equally appalling CG effects, including a dive into a waterfall to find a hidden cave.
Sloppy directorial choices and an apparently rushed shooting schedule create oddball issues that at times make this seem like an amateur effort. Chan is stretched vertically in early China scenes that make it seem like the wrong lens was used to shoot the scenes or there’s something wrong with the settings of your player. Alas, it was an impossible to decipher directorial decision to make the actor appear thinner and taller. The effect is anything but effective.
Likewise, the audio is depressingly sloppy. It’s readily apparent the dialogue has been over-dubbed in a studio, and without care. An obvious echo accompanies a few scenes even though they’re clearly outdoors. Certain dialogue fades in and out behind static, making it difficult to hear.
All of this leads to an awfully silly finale. Some cheap scientific babble attempts to explain how characters suddenly start flying through the air in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon style, but there’s no attempt to suspend disbelief that far. Worse, the effect isn’t done even half as well as it was in the latter respected epic, and the green screen shots further cheapen the effects. It takes away from the otherwise excellent choreography, and destroys a chance to bring a different level to Chan’s fights.
It’s nice to see Chan branch out and try something different. The Myth wasn’t the way to do this though. There was nothing wrong with his famous style in the otherwise standard New Police Story one year prior. Stunts are spectacular regardless of the setting, but there still needs to be a sense of reality or suspension of disbelief somewhere to pull it all together.
Inconsistent is the way to describe this DVD transfer. At times, the vistas of countrysides are stunning in their detail. In the next scene, rough compression artifacts creep in to eliminate the sense of clarity. Some color bleeding is discernible when bright reds appear on screen (the feathers on the army’s helmets are especially ugly).
Oddly, the same goes for the audio. It’s impressive to hear a character continue talking off screen, and the sound following them through the speakers. Then, when the action picks up, especially during the massive battle scene in ancient China, it’s as if the rear speakers suddenly turn off. Some decent bass saves the film from sounding flat.
Six deleted scenes of exposition join a solo Jackie Chan commentary to begin a small set of special features. Two music videos for the song featured in the film (“Endless Love”) are included, both with a unique sound. A featurette called Myth Adventures runs down the basics of shooting the movie for 21 minutes, while two promos (one a PSA for meditation, the other for Chan’s charity) finish the menus choices.
Dragon Dynasty currently has Chan’s follow-up feature Robin-B-Hood scheduled for US DVD release in late December. This will piggyback the release for Rush Hour 3. That’s a nice week for fans of this always fun action star.