The Mermaid
Sony Pictures // R // $30.99 // July 5, 2016
Review by Neil Lumbard | posted July 30, 2016
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Highly Recommended
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The Mermaid Blu-ray Review

The Mermaid is a Chinese fantasy-action-comedy from master filmmaker Stephen Chow (Kung Fu Hustle, Journey to the West). The film is from executive producers La Peikang (Kung Fu Panda 3, Wolf Totem) and co-writer/director Chow. The Mermaid was a critically acclaimed smash hit in China and went on to become China's largest grossing film of all time.

The film centers upon a Mermaid named Shan (Yun Lin) who is chosen to lead an assassination attempt on a wealthy business investor named Liu Xuan (Chao Deng) by a group of vengeance seeking mermaids. Liu Xuan's business developments are harming the environment of the sea: his sonar technology is killing underwater life (and it has led to the death and injury of many of the mermaids).

The mermaid's plot to save their ocean home? To send "honeypot" Shan to kill off Liu as their "highly trained" assassin. However, things start to go awry for the mermaids when Shan starts falling in love with her assassination target. At the same time, Liu Xuan begins to learn there is more to living than obtaining money and wealth.

The film also contains an assortment of interesting supporting characters. Octopus (Show Lo) is one of the leaders of the mermaids. He is in charge of the plan to assassinate Liu Xuan and he organizes the mermaids plan against Xuan. Li Ruolan (Yugi Zhang) is a developer involved in the sonar technology who wants to become involved with Liu Xuan (both on the business side and romantically). Li Ruolan's primary interest is making money (even at the cost of mermaid's lives).

The music score is composed by Fuhua Huang and Jiajia Zheng (Mang long te jiong). The music for the film is lively and exciting. The score adds a nice element of excitement to the film and is full of energy. The film also contains a number of classic Chinese songs (some of which have been featured in previous Chow efforts) which helps to create a sense of unity with his films.

The cinematography by Sung Fai Choi (Journey to the West, Flying Swords of Dragon Gate) is excellent on a technical level while also being creatively beautiful. This is an impressive film visually and the colorful cinematography adds much to the filmmaking. The production design by Bruce Yu (Journey to the West, The Four) is also quite effective in the film: from the world of the mermaids to the business surroundings of Liu Xuan.

The art direction designed by Raymond Chan (Mad Detective, Breaking News) and Bruce Yu (Love for All Seasons) adds to the top notch quality of the production. The costumes by Pik Kwan Lee (Ip Man, Infernal Affairs) present a colorful array of material for both the mermaid and human characters. The style is effective and beautifully done. The film also features a array of impressive CGI which is quite good (with some spectacular effects work towards the film's big conclusion).

The Mermaid was co-written by Stephen Chow (alongside seven other co-screenwriters). The writers on the film did an excellent job of creating a story which magically combines its drama and comedy into a successful whole. The story is also impressive for its strong environmental message. Chow is making an important statement with the film about the need to protect the ocean and prevent the continuing pollution and harm to the sea and ocean creatures. That he managed to make The Mermaid a film with a strong message that is also an exciting, entertaining, and creatively impressive one is all the more noteworthy.

Directed by Stephen Chow (Kung Fu Hustle, Shaolin Soccer), The Mermaid is one of his most ambitious and entertaining films. It's a perfect complement to his other efforts. The style of the filmmaking is goofy and unique. There is a good blend of drama, romance, and comedy to keep the story entertaining at every turn. This is also easily one of the most creative films of the year (with Chow's auteur directorial skills on display at every turn of the story).

Chow manages to tell an original story that offers a fresh take on mermaids unlike anything done before in cinema. The film weaves back and forth between drama, comedy, and romance with an expertise that is rarely seen. The energy of the film is tremendous: both the pacing and flow throughout the filmmaking is superb. The Mermaid is a gem from one of China's best filmmakers. It's a must-see for all Stephen Chow fans and it should be experienced by all admirers of the best in Chinese filmmaking.

The Blu-ray:


Video:

The Mermaid arrives on Blu-ray from Sony with a technically superb 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded presentation in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen. The image is remarkably sharp, clean, and robust. The presentation is impressive throughout and features good color depth and overall clarity. This is a beautiful and top-notch quality release.

The one downside to this Blu-ray presentation is that Sony decided not to release the 3D presentation of the film in North America. Fans of the film who appreciate quality 3D presentations will want to seek out the Chinese 3D Blu-ray release as it includes a stunning 3D presentation (with nice depth, dimensionality, and some fun 3D effects) and it includes excellent English subtitles.

For those unable to view the film in 3D (or who simply prefer 2D presentations), the Sony Blu-ray release offers the film with an excellent presentation.

Audio:

The audio on this release is presented in Mandarin 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The audio clarity is excellent and the film sounds terrific with its lossless sound. The surround sound presentation is a robust and active one that utilizes the soundstage quite effectively. The film is quite creative when it comes to its sound mix and many elements of the film are wonderfully realized with the audio: from the sounds of the rushing waters to the action-heavy conclusion the soundstage is a expansive one with good dimensionality. This is a fun surround sound mix featuring excellent dialogue reproduction. The clarity of the music is also terrific and effectively presents the score and songs.  The English subtitles are excellent and do no feature any glaring grammatical errors.

An optional English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio dub presentation is also provided on this release. Subtitles are available in English SDH (for the deaf and hard of hearing), Spanish, and French.


Extras:

Please note that this release is a Blu-ray + HD UV Combo Pack.

Making of The Mermaid (HD, 13 min.) is the most extensive extra on the release. It's a decent behind the scenes featurette about the production of the film. It features interviews with the cast, production team, and more. The extra is a brief but fun look at the making of The Mermaid.

One curious thing about this behind the scenes extra is it's highlight of the 3D filmmaking aspect of The Mermaid and the fact that Stephen Chow planned scenes for 3D. It's unfortunate that this film was not released on 3D Blu-ray in North America.

Invincible Music Video (2 min.) features the cast singing the film's core theme-song.

Behind the Scenes (2 min.) features more behind-the-scenes material (but, alas, some of it is merely recycled or extended from the main 'making-of' extra).

Final Thoughts:

The Mermaid is an entertaining, exciting, and must-see motion-picture event. Stephen Chow (Shaolin Soccer, Kung Fu Hustle) has once again made an energetic film which is filled with great filmmaking and storytelling.  It's a goofy and offbeat film which might not appeal to all viewers but it's easily one of Chow's best efforts as a filmmaker to date. Fans of the filmmaker will likely love the original story and the breathtaking vision on display. This is certainly one of the most unique and enjoyable films of the year.   

Highly Recommended.



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