A prequel of the colossal moneymaker DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME (2010, 7/10), which dominated the box office of Chinese National Holiday week (starts from 1st October) three years ago, and a similar (if not higher) lucrative income will repeat this year in the 7-days stretch too.
Saw the 3D version inside a hustle-and-bustle local multiplex with a full house audience, righteously Hark Tsui's strenuous endeavor in the state-of-the-art technology of visual stunt pays off handsomely this time, the film confidently dispenses awesome CGI full views to parade Tang Dynasty's palatial splendor, and conjures up a PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN derivative island quest, with nighttime cliff skirmish proffers a taut engagement of amazement, culminates with a sea dragon showdown to gratify the long-awaited anticipation. Also there are ample presentations of novel martial art feats (anti-physics notwithstanding) to cater for the target audiences.
But the film is at best to be referred as satisfying, compared to its predecessor, the whole "dragon king" case doesn't measure up to the intelligent reasoning required for a grave and ambitious scheme such as toppling over an entire nation, maybe it is because of a "young" detective Dee, not weathered enough yet. The freshly-recruited cast brings new and drop-dead gorgeous faces to the franchise (quintet of beauty,Chao, Feng, Lin, Kim and Angelababy in their prime appeal) , but they are all employed as chessmen to follow the procedure without any further digging into their personalities or plainly reduced to eye-candies. If one must pick the best from available, Carina Lau, majestically reprises her role as Empress Wu Zetian, years before the coronation, she already arbitrarily ministers the state affair behind the Emperor's throne.
Stating the obvious, the franchise enjoys an ongoing and surging bankroll which will secure further follow-ups, one advise to the screenwriters, don't defame the word "detective", in addition to cook a feast for eyes and ears, our brains also need something palatable to feed on. Plus if the ultimate weapon to quell the monster is poisonous food, maybe we should all pray for the huddled mass in any rate.