Jackie Chan does another collaboration with director Stanley Tong, who helmed some of his most commercially successful Hong Kong films ("Rumble in the Bronx," "Supercop"), for the sci-fi adventurer "The Myth." Unfortunately, this time, they end up with a turkey.
The story’s pretty shaky, even though Chan had been able to overcome that in the past. It zips back and forth between ancient China and modern times. The only thing connecting the two time periods is that Chan plays a character in each of them. In ancient China, Chan plays a general who is involved in a forbidden love affair with his emperor’s consort. In the modern day setting, Chan plays an archaeologist who’s haunted by dreams of the past involving that love affair.
The past and present mix together like oil and water. Perhaps the reason for this is because the genesis of this project started as two films. Tong had been prepping a time travel movie set in ancient China, and Chan had wanted to work on a third film for his Indiana Jones-like franchise "The Armor of God." They ended up combining the two projects into "The Myth." Consequently, it feels like two very different films.
The two settings are of differing quality too. While the past is disjointed, sober, and violent, the present is semi-cohesive, light hearted, and family friendly. Tong shot the ancient setting the same way he shot the modern setting, so ancient China doesn’t look ancient at all; it just looks like a bunch of guys wearing ancient costumes in modern China. Visually, it just looks plain and uninspired; the cinematographer gets an F. That’s actually slightly better than the special effects. The film boasts 900 effects shots. Each and every one of them are laughably and noticeably bad. The action sequences in the ancient setting are passable, nothing worth noting. The forbidden romance is one sided because we don’t see the emperor’s side of it. Actually, the emperor is only mentioned and not seen in the film at all.
Despite all of that, here’s why you might just want to give this a chance at the box office as a matinee or on video: there is an amazingly creative fight scene on a conveyor belt in the middle of the film in the modern setting. It’s not an athletic showcase of incredible physical feats like Chan’s earlier works, but a showcase of deft comic timing and ingenious usage of clothing. It’s pure genius. Chan might not be as fast or nimble as in his younger years, but he’s probably more creative. As long as he continues to choreograph imaginative fight scenes like this – that doesn’t rely on his eroding physical skills – he can still continue to make action movies well into his elder years. What makes the film even more disappointing is that this piece of gem is covered by a mountain of poop. It’s too bad the film doesn’t end after this sequence.
Other Toronto International Film Festival Articles:
• Toronto Film Fest: Tim Burton’s "Corpse Bride" starring Johnny Depp
• Toronto Film Fest: "Flightplan" with Jodie Foster and "Shopgirl" with Steve Martin
• Toronto Film Fest: "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit"