Stephen Chow’s new film is an environmental protection film masquerading as a romance story

By Wei Xi Source:Global Times Published: 2016-2-8 17:37:59

Although Hong Kong actor-turned-director Stephen Chow’s latest sci-fi romance film The Mermaid holds a score of 7.9/10 on domestic movie site, it really doesn’t live up to the score. 

A long anticipated film that was kept tightly under wraps until its premiere on Monday, the first day of the Chinese New Year, the film comes across as disappointing, especially considering the anticipation that had been built up. 

A class on environmental protection masquerading as a romance story pretty much sums up the 90-minute film. Billionaire developer Xu Xuan (Deng Chao) buys up some coastal land for a project. To get his money’s worth, however, he decides to fill in the sea. His project ends up damaging the ecosystem of the area, including the homes of a group of mermaids who live in the area. To stop Xu, mermaid Xuanxuan (Lin Yun) is sent by the group to seduce him. Finally falling in love with Xuanxuan, Xu not only abandons his original projects, but now dedicates his entire life to environmental protection. 

While Chow is often admired as a film genius who often produces works that no other director would have ever thought of, The Mermaid is a common film that does little beyond the story synopsis that was released by marketers a few months ago. 

One of the reasons The Mermaid may come across as lackluster may be because of the comparison to Chow’s Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons, a fantastic film which came out during the Chinese New Year period back in 2013. 

Journey to the West is a literature classic that has been adapted countless times in China, but Conquering the Demons offered a new perspective on the story that felt incredibly fresh to audiences who have grown up on the story of the Monkey King. 

To be more specific, for example, in Conquering the Demons, major characters (Monkey King, the Pig and the Fish Demon) are no longer the cute characters that we are familiar with and the themes portrayed in the movie are worth discussing. However, in The Mermaid, the mermaids are pretty much the same mythological creatures portrayed in numerous films and the plot involving them trying to save their home is somewhat of an old trope. At one point when police arrive to arrest the film’s villains I couldn’t help but think – “OMG! Chow has mainstreamed himself to fit the mainland market” – to portray mainland authorities in such a positive light.

The Mermaid does share one controversy with Conquering the Demons. A film showing during the Spring Festival holiday, it is practically implied to be a film targeted for family audiences. However, some of the violent and sexual themes in the film are rather improper for young audiences and yet no notice of this was given during earlier marketing of the film. 

Generally speaking, The Mermaid contains a lot of the director’s typical touch: A self-opinionated young man, a pure girl that will lead the main character to the truth, some slapstick comedic characters (often an old ugly looking lady), and some classic lines in the Guangdong dialect. 

If you don’t mind spending your holiday seeing repeats of classic Chow jokes, then The Mermaid may be for you, but if you are looking for something fresh or something the family can watch together, you should look elsewhere. 

Newspaper headline: The Mermaid fails to live up to expectations

Posted in: Film

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