Whenever a wuxia film (i.e. martial arts epic fantasy) winds up getting plopped onto home video here in the U.S. with no fanfare whatsoever, it comes as no surprise. What is kind of surprising is to find out that the film in question is not only a sequel, but was originally released in 3D. So to be reviewing the film not just in 2D, but on DVD, you can’t help but think the film is really getting the short end of the stick. Thankfully, Painted Skin: The Resurrection, seems to have its own plot in motion and you don’t need to have seen the original Painted Skin. It’s also interesting to note that the first film still has yet to see the light of day stateside when it too was in 3D and starred Donnie Yen. I guess this is where I shrug and move along, right?
Resurrection has quite a convoluted storyline. The basics are that the Fox demon, Xiao Wei (Xun Zhou in a returning role), has been banished to extreme coldness, night and day, for 500 years. Now, a Bird demon, Quer (Mini Yang), who has been attracted by the Fox’s face, has managed her escape from the icy prison. To keep her human form, Xiao Wei must take the hearts of the living. The only way she can become human is if someone offers their heart willingly. Meanwhile, Princess Jing (Wei Zhao) has rescued Xiao Wei from the clutches of the Tian Lang Kingdom.
Jing takes her with her to the White City where General Huo Xin (Kun Chen) stands guard protecting the city when he’s not winning archery contests and literally bathing in alcohol. We learn over the course of the film that Jing and Huo love each other, but Huo won’t return Jing’s advances and Jing is promised to marry a Tian Lang prince which could result in war if she doesn’t live up to her end of the bargain. Subplots involve Quer meet-cutes a street vendor by day/demon hunter by night (Shaofeng Feng), who knows there’s a demon staying in White City; meanwhile, Xiao Wei offers Jing the chance to win Huo over by switching bodies to rid her of her facial scars from a bear mauling nearly eight years ago.
See what I mean about convoluted? The plot thickens nearly by the minute and leaves one scratching his/her head trying to take it all in. Thankfully, the film never drags, but it’s probably helped along by the lesbian undertones because there isn’t much in the way of action here. Melodrama is the name of the game, and it’s actually kind of amusing to find that the 23 minute special feature (Making of Painted Skin: The Resurrection Featurette) dives into the story aspect making the film make way more sense, something a special feature should never have to do. Maybe it was the DVD upconversion that made some of the special effects look particularly cartoonish; however, I learned the CGI bear in the film was actually partially a man in costume. But honestly, the full CGI bears of Brave looked far better than this. And some of the backgrounds looked like desktop screensavers.
In the end, the film isn’t worth spending the full amount on the Blu-ray release, even if it’s sure to look far better than this DVD counterpart, but it may be more entertaining if a 3D release ever rears its head. There are plenty of moments where you can tell things are supposed to be coming out of the screen or would simply have more of an impact in the third dimension. As it stands, if you have an itch for some good old fashioned wuxia, it may be what you’re looking for. The Mandarin 5.1 Dolby Digital packs some excellent LFE and spot-on directionality. So I do suppose that Painted Skin: The Resurrection may at least be worthy of a rental. But considering the original stars Donnie Yen, that’s the one I really want to see now.
DVD Artwork and Photo courtesy Well Go USA