December 13, 2005


Jackie Chan's first foray into CGI, THE MYTHFor years Jackie Chan held out against using computer effects, claiming that audiences wanted to see what he could do, and that CGI leveled the playing field too much. Once you could paint anything you wanted onscreen with pixels then Jackie Chan wasn’t so special anymore. But in the past few years as the wear and tear of the years has reduced his joints to dust, Chan has embraced digital effects. At first it was just to erase cables, but in THE MYTH he’s using CGI to create sets and execute stunts and while most directors could stand to embrace change and catch up with the times, I wish Jackie Chan hadn’t. Because every time the movie goes to CGI it starts to suck hard, which is unfortunate, because this is the best Jackie Chan movie to come out in a long time.

The plot is the kind of character and location-heavy muddle that Chan’s once sharp script instincts have been reduced to lately. We’ve got Jackie playing an archeologist in modern day Hong Kong, India and China, then we’ve got Jackie playing a Qin Dynasty general in China and Korea. There’s a bunch of twaddle about levitating meteor rocks, holy men and immortality but you can pretty much tune all this out so it’s nothing more than a dull, comforting roar of white noise. Without a plot how does the movie work? The same way Jackie’s movies always work: on Jackie’s charisma and the action scenes. The action comes flying at the audience fast and furious and while some of it is a little creaky there’re some setpieces that’ll give you that old time brain buzz. If Chan isn’t as fast as he once was, he still understands the way the human body works like nobody’s business and he can deliver an action sequence that’s stunningly creative. Most notably there’s a factory fight in THE MYTH that’s right up there with anything he’s ever done. However you don’t find yourself gasping at the speed of the combat, or its brutality, but at how Jackie reduces his cast to a bunch of infinitely flexible props, a human jungle gym for him to climb around on.

But the finale of the movie takes place in an all-CGI environment and, to be honest, it stinks. The simple frission generated by Jackie bending around a few bodies in an earlier reel is replaced by the empty spectacle of Jackie floating around with a bunch of guys in front of a green screen. They’re supposed to be suspended over a bottomless pit and Jackie tries to throw in a couple of gags from ARMOUR OF GOD 2: OPERATION CONDOR but without the real threat of physical danger these stunts are just empty gestures, not cortex-stimulating brushes with death. When a stuntman staggered to the edge of a high platform in OPERATION CONDOR, pulling himself back just in time, your skin prickled because this was a real person saving themselves from real danger through sheer physical skill. When the same thing happens in THE MYTH it’s just a guy a couple of feet off the ground, clipped into a harness, with some folks in green raincoats standing around him. Nothing prickles here.

And that’s too bad because THE MYTH, for all its stupidity, works. Jackie Chan has rescued lots of his movies with a tragic ending, and THE MYTH has one in spades. People forget that for all his comedy, many of Jackie’s movies end on a strangely disaffected note. POLICE STORY 2 and 3 end with downbeat finales, with POLICE STORY 3 going for flat-out political discontent. DRUNKEN MASTER 2 plays Jackie’s brain damage for laughs, but that doesn’t change the fact that he ends the movie severely mentally impaired. And don’t get me started on PROJECT A, ARMOUR OF GOD 2: OPERATION CONDOR or POLICE STORY which all have deeply depressing endings with their main characters either about to die or go insane. THE MYTH returns to that grand old dark tradition with Jackie abandoned, rejected by those close to him, with those he cares about either missing or dead, sitting all alone in an empty mansion. The final 20 minutes of THE MYTH contain so much tragedy that it adds a retrospective weight to the previous fluffy plot line.

But then there’s that CGI. Undermining everything that Jackie is good at, negating the risks he takes, devaluing his skills. Jackie, please, this is one time where you should stick to your stubborn guns and reject the changing times.

Stay stuck in the past, Jackie. It’s where you matter most.

(You can pick which version of THE MYTH to order here, read the Variety review or Twitch review )

December 13, 2005 at 08:40 AM in Reviews | Permalink


Myth was nice movie. Why u did not select any other cultured beautiful indian heroine? let me know about that dark indian martial artist name who did an excellent fight.

IN deed Jackie was excellent as always

Posted by: george ramos | Jan 5, 2006 2:59:14 AM

good film can they make another like this?

Posted by: roky | Sep 7, 2006 1:34:32 AM

The plot is the kind of character and location-heavy muddle that Chan’s once sharp script instincts have been reduced to lately.

Posted by: robin | Sep 7, 2006 1:39:01 AM

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