Almost everything there is to know about the film can be found in its production notes. Directed by Li Chen, who also stars along his real-life girlfriend Fan Bingbing, having the full support of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLA), with it being the first time that a film crew was allowed access to their military bases, featuring military experts and trainers as advisers, and with the shooting taking place in in Death Valley, U.S; also known as the “Star Wars Canyon as well as in various parts of China and Kazakhstan, “Sky Hunter” could be nothing but a blockbuster. Add to the aforementioned the presence of Hans Zimmer as producer of the score, Pixomondo being in charge of the CGI, and a script that resembles “Top Gun” a bit too much, and you have almost everything you need to know about the movie Let us take things from the beginning, though.
Wu Di and Haochen are best friends from their years in the aviation academy and ace pilots. When they finish the academy though, their paths take a completely different route, since the former is picked for Sky Hunters, an elite, secret squadron, while the latter takes a teaching position overseas, in the fictional republic of Mahbu. Yali, Wu Di’s love interest and an ace helicopter pilot also becomes a member of the Sky Hunters. However, when a group of terrorists called the Group of the Holy Light attack the school Haochen teaches, and take him and a number of other Chinese hostages, demanding the release of their leader, China’s hand is forced and the Sky Hunters are tasked with the rescue mission. The first attempt that includes their commander, Ling Weifeng and Wu Di almost ends in tragedy, but the information gained allows the squadron to prepare for a more detailed, large scale-mission.
The similarities with “Top Gun” are more than visible in a script that was written by air force Lieutenant Colonel Zhang Li, with the clear purpose of attracting recruits for the Air Force by highlighting the prowess of the Chinese army (the Air Force logo appears in the beginning of the movie). Having the complete cooperation of the Air Force, one would expect some impressive aerial photography, but instead the film is filled with CGI, which, after a time, become somewhat repetitive. The aforementioned similarities extend to all aspects, starting with the permeating jingoism, and extending to the enemy, whose agents look very much like former-USSR, the concept of an ace but reckless pilot, the romantic notions, although in much different style, and even whole scenes, like the one in the beginning with the two pilots.
Some issues with the narrative also exist, since the lack of actual drama and tension fills the film, while the action is not impressive enough to deem them irrelevant.
However, the merit of the production lies with the fact that the audience really knows what to expect (a blockbuster action flick), and thus, does not disappoint as a whole, although the action part could have been a lot better.
In this setting, there is not much room for acting, and Li Chen as Wu Di and Li Jiahang as Haochen just portray the archetypes of the sexy and brave-reckless heroes, while Fan Binbing has a secondary role, which allows her, though, to present all the reasons she is so popular at the moment, both through her physique and her way of acting, in mainstream fashion.
Overall, “Sky Hunter” had all the prerequisites of becoming a “Wolf Warrior 2”, but some unfortunate choices in the crew (particularly Zhang Li’s script) and the excessive use of CGI prevent it from reaching its true potential. For those who look for an action blockbuster with dogfights though, the film does not disappoint.
“Sky Hunter” is distributed in Australia by China Lion Entertainment