Tragedy is frequently the inevitable fate of relations between humans and demonesses. “The Legend of White Snake” from which Sorcerer and the White Snake is based, is an old tale dating back to the oral tradition. There have been many adaptations of it from operas to television series, but the most recent feature film fails to live up to its legacy. The original story has been diluted and changed due to the expansion of Abbott Fahai’s role, a device used no doubt to give Jet Li time for some contrived action sequences.
Like many wuxia films, there are some truly marvelous visual concepts, but far too much attention was put into the overused CGI and mediocre special effects instead of bettering the script. The demon hunter Abbott Fahai is introduced with his assistant Nengren, by battling a man-killing ice harpy and sealing her in a magic circle inside Lei Feng Pagoda. Other demons reside there to meditate on their evil deeds, a collective time-out if you will. What could possibly go wrong? Meanwhile, 1000 year-old white snake Susu and green snake Qingqing frolic about in a mountain forest when they spy a young herbalist climbing up rocks to gather medicinal plants. Out of mischief Qingqing scares Xu Xian into nearly drowning and Susu rescues him with a magical kiss that transfers some of her vital energy, taking a few years off her life. Days afterwards the snake spirits wear human guises to find their stranger while Abbott Fahai and Nengren search for a vampiric bat demon. Susu traps Xu Xian in a pavilion, proves her identity by nearly drowning him again, and they are quickly married. It takes a supernatural illness from fox-demons to bring the monk in contact with Susu. Abbott Fahai demands that Susu leave her husband to keep him safe from inevitable harm. The monk is not moved by her declaration of true love, and forces her to flee from home.
Sorcerer and the White Snake glosses over the potential depths opened by the deviations made from the storyline. Goals are uncomplicated and demonic natures are superficially divided into the evil and the good. Susu’s and Xu Xian’s romance feels forced and lacks in substance, falling back on cliché dialogue during scenes of professed love. The action sequences for which
the story was sacrificed also fail to make much impact: there never seems to be a real sense of thrill or danger. Demons are captured flailing, and no one gets physically hurt but novice monk Nengren. Even the final battle’s expected body count doesn’t occur. CGI extravaganzas make for some spectacular images, but there are still cringe-worthy moments.
What attracted me to this movie was actually its theme song. Raymond Lam and Eva Huang’s voices blend together beautifully, if only their characters could have had that chemistry too.