Martial arts fans have had high hopes for Jackie Chan since his return from Hollywood to the world of Hong Kong Cinema – and the Benny Chan directed New Police Story was definitely a step in the right direction as far as a return to form for the one time reigning king of kung fu movies. Would his latest film, The Myth, in which he once again teamed up with Stanley Tong (who directed him in Supercop and Rumble In The Bronx), turn out to be dreck or continue the fine tradition of some of his past work? Well, as it turned out, it was a little bit of both.
The basic story is initially told in two parts, both of which intertwine more and more as the film plays out. The first part is set in modern times and it revolves around an archeologist named Jack who, along with his pal and co-worker William (Tony Leung Ka Fai) are employed to head out to a temple in Dasar to find out what it is about that area that allows some holy men to float. They get there and find out that it's a piece of a meteorite that gives them that ability, and William swipes a piece of it to bring back to their headquarters. Unfortunately for them, this causes the Indian people in the area to become quite irate and they chase them to the edge of a cliff. William makes it to the helicopter, but Jack is sent whirling off of a cliff into the river below. When he wakes up, he still has the sword that he grabbed in self defense back at the temple, but he finds himself at a martial arts training school lead by an elderly man and his beautiful niece (Mallika Sherawat). They test his skills with the sword and solidify his connection to the other part of the story…
…long ago a general named Meng-Yi (also played by Chan) was assigned with the task of guarding a gorgeous Korean concubine named Ok-soo (Hee-seon Kim) and getting her back the emperor in one piece. As they survive an attack on their caravan they get separated from the rest of their entourage and while alone, begin to have feelings for one another. Unfortunately for Meng-Yi and Ok-soo, their love is forbidden as they come from two different classes and shouldn't be intermingling.
The Myth starts out fairly strong, with some nice period costumes and a great opening battle scene in which Chan must save Ok-soo from their attackers that takes place on the edge of a cliff. As the story begins to develop and we find out just how Jack and Meng-Yi are related through Jack's story and the dreams that he has, things continue to remain interesting and the movie manages to blend some serious period drama with the kind of slapstick martial arts action that Chan is known for (with Leung Ka Fai making for a pretty solid sidekick in a few scenes).
The film also features an intense and insanely well thought out and choreographed battle scene that proves to be not only an amazing action set piece but also a pretty emotional moment in the film as well. The scene (along with a few of the other 'past' scenes), without spoiling it, allows Chan a chance to actually act and he does a very fine job of handling the more intense moments that the script delivers. Likewise, there's a present day scene that takes place in an Indian factory on a conveyor belt covered in rat trapping glue that ought to bring a smile to the collective face of fans of Jackie's older work – the moves and comedic timing are definitely still there.
Unfortunately, The Myth fails to live up to its potential for a few different reasons. First off, there's an abundance of bad CGI work in the film. This applies not only to some of the stunts but also to the blood spray and even background critters such as the scene where Chan sits playing a flute only to awaken a cobra that dances behind him – the cobra is completely computer generated and obviously so. The film also fails to tie up a huge lose end. When Jack awakes to the sight of the beautiful Indian girl and goes through all that he is required to go through to prove himself with her uncle, he promises her that he'll return. While this may do a nice job of setting up a sequel, the fact that once he leaves we never hear anything else about it again as the film goes in a completely different direction might leave some viewers scratching their heads wondering what the point of it all was. Then there's the floating. While Hong Kong cinema has a tradition of making it seem like certain characters can fly by way of some clever wire work (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon being the best known example to North American audiences at least) but here it's over used in the ending of the film to the point where it becomes tedious.
The storyline does tie everything up when it's all said and done, at least all the major plot points, but it isn't a satisfying conclusion to a film that did start off very strongly. The sum of certain parts of The Myth are definitely stronger than the whole, and that's a shame as this was a missed opportunity – it had potential, but it didn't live up t to it. The movie is entertaining enough, but because it fails on a few too many levels, it's really nothing more than that, no matter how ambitious the international location shooting and cast make it seem. The film looks very pretty, but without enough substance to make the pretty mean anything, it's ultimately rather vacant.The DVD
The 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer on this DVD is excellent. While there are faint traces of edge enhancement and mpeg compression evident in a few spots, they're few and far between. Colors look nice and natural, the reds especially are quite strong but they don't bleed, skin tones look great as well, and there's a very nice, high level of detail present in the background as well as the foreground. Print damage is non-existent and although there is a little bit of grain present in a few scenes, it's never out of hand and never unnatural looking. A very solid effort in the visuals department on this release.Sound:
There are two audio options on this DVD – a solid Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound an excellent DTS-ES 6.1 Surround Sound. Optional subtitles are available in English (surprisingly almost completely free of typos) and both traditional and simplified Chinese that are clean and clear and easy to read. While the DTS track slightly edges out the Dolby Digital mix, both tracks sound great. The film makes very good use of the surround channels, especially during the enormous battle scene that takes place in the desert and during the martial arts sequences, and the subwoofer gets a bit of a work out as well. Dialogue is crisp and clear without any muffling or muddiness to the track, and there's really not much to complain about here other than one or two spots where the action just slightly overshadows the dialogue.Extras:
The supplements on this release are spread across the two discs in the set, and thankfully (and surprisingly, considering this is a Hong Kong import release) most of them have English subtitles!
Aside from a Highlights section that takes you to the action scenes in the film, the only other supplement on the first disc is a commentary track with the director of the film, Stanley Tong. This is a reasonably lively discussion as Tong, joined here by producer Barbie Tong and art director Oliver Wong, discusses a lot of what went into making the film, the various locations that they shot on, and many of the difficulties that they encountered along the way. Tong reveals that a lot of shots were taken in helicopters to get the right angles down properly and how that proved to be trickier than he first anticipated and also details the casting decisions and a lot of pre-production details. Tong has a lot to say about the movie and there thankfully isn't much in the way of dead air. He crams a lot of good information into his talk and if you were into the movie and want to know more about it, this is definitely the best way to do it as the extras on the second disc just aren't as comprehensive as some of us probably would have liked.
The first segment on the second disc comes in the form of a fifteen minute Making documentary that features some interesting on set footage and some keen shots of the performers practicing for a few of the more complicated stunts. Both Jackie Chan and Tony Leung Ka Fai are seen practicing some of their lines and they give some really quick interviews in this section, but most of it is just random behind the scenes footage set to music and without much of a context to it.
After that we get nine different Behind The Scenes featurettes, most of which are pretty brief, that focus on a specific moment from the film. The titles more or less explain what scene they're demonstrating and they play out as follows: Fight For The Princess (6:16), Adventure In The Icy Caves (5:36), Ancient Temple In Dasar (5:03), Kalaripayaifu (2:51), Rats On The Glue (9:05), Shooting Beings (0:45), and finally, Heavenly Palace (10:41). A lot of emphasis in these clips is give to the interweaving of the digital effects with the regular traditional stunt work. They're worth checking out just to see how much of a certain scene was done using a green screen versus an organic set.
Up next are two deleted scenes. The first one features Chan in the cave in his armor and it's really nothing more than a shot of him walking – it clocks in at eleven seconds in length. The second one is a little more substantial, it's a clip from the modern day story and it involves Chan and Leung Ka Fai in the temple in Dasar – it runs for 3:47 and is presented here without background music or sound effects but with dialogue.
Moving right along, we come to a pair of music videos, both for the same song, Endless Love, which plays in the film. The first version is in Mandarin and is performed by Han Hong and Sun Nan. The second version is the International Version and it's performed by Jackie Chan and Hee-seon Kim. Neither version of the song is subtitled.
The footage from the Hong Kong Premiere of the film runs for 17:12 and it features a lot of footage of fans gathering outside of a theater before heading in where Jackie and the rest of the cast are on stage for a Q&A session. It's a reasonably interesting feature and Chan's good natured sense of humor comes through nicely during this segment.
The last section is the Promotional Materials In here we find two trailers for the film, a teaser spot, and two television spots. Also included in here is 5:26 worth of footage shot when the film played at the Cannes Film Festival. It's a random assortment of material presented without any context or narration. None of the material in this section is subtitled.Final Thoughts:
While definitely stronger than the last few films that Jackie Chan made in Hollywood,The Myth unfortunately fizzles out towards the end after a really enjoyable first hour. That being said, there are enough stand out moments in the film to make it worth a look, and the DVD looks and sounds fantastic. The subtitles on the supplements were a nice and unexpected touch, but there isn't enough in the extra features to keep you coming back for more. All in all, it's an entertaining film, just not a great one despite some highlights. Rent it.