It is difficult to call “Iceman 2: The Time Traveller” a film. An audio-visual junked-up mirage seems more fitting. The mess of the story cannot be explained by any of the conceptions of theoretical physics, and at its end, you easily join He Ying (Donnie Yen) in his philosophical quest. While his is the question of historical accountability, yours would be purely ontological. Quite probably many slang words will be used to utter: Why has this thing seen the daylight? (Well, this question might be in the air for the last 87 minutes of the film.)
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You know what? Let`s look on the bright side of “Iceman 2: The Time Traveller”. The sequel to 2014 action sci-fi blockbuster opens with a very thoughtful guided 10-minutes explanation on time travel and a recap of the “Iceman” (2014) to make it easier for those, who for whatever reason have missed the first film, or totally blacked it out. What follows is a great leap beyond all generally known theories of the space-time continuum. To tune into the right mindset, just follow the advice of Master Yoda, and unlearn what you have learnt. About anything. Ever.
Obviously, letter by letter inspired by the idea that the time actually is a big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey wimey stuff, “Iceman 2: The Time Traveller” applies this BBC proven concept on every level of the film. He Ying is manipulated by brother turned enemy turned brother turned enemy Yuanlong (Simon Yam) into using the Linga to activate the Golden Wheel of Time and send him and Niehu (Yu Kang) back to the 17th century/Ming dynasty China. Along the way, stranded with his (lured into the trap) modern-day girlfriend May (Eva Huang), He Ying decides to follow Yuanlong and Niehu on the trip back into the past. Unlike those two, he is motivated by the power of love, deeply rooted respect to Chairman Mao, and intention to save his village.
“Iceman 2: The Time Traveller” doesn`t hold back with its never-seen-before use of Deus ex Machina tools, twists, and loops (including Old Spice commercials), nor with brave combinations of low key architecture and costumes inspired by the 1980s Czechoslovak TV fairy tales, with the most recent Instagram and Snapchat filters instead of some boring “proper” set production, costumes and colour grading. The visualization of the very act of time travel is just breath-taking amalgam of beautiful shots of nebulas, the POW bubbles in a certain 1977 film hyperdrive and a 1927 train.
With all the hi-tech and revolutionary imagination in practice, “Iceman 2: The Time Traveller” stays with feet on the ground, making it ultra-easy to grasp the emotional state of our main heroes by illustrating some potentially confusing dialogues. This way, everyone can literally see the He Ying`s dilemma concerning the choice of the path back to Tao Yuan village, or the fact that he feels on the horse or hooked on a feeling. Should it run out of illustrations, it whips out a song. Moreover, some of the scenes might be utilized by language schools as the dialogue practice episodes (“What is this?”, “I`ll murder you!”, “Jap bastard!”, “Thieves run rampant.” etc).
We should not forget the most important: it would be really difficult to find a film where Donnie Yen looked prettier. This fact cannot be outshined even by the bonding of May and the historic love interest of He Ying and her friends over “future” (=chocolate) and home spa experience. The only more difficult thing might be finding a place with more wires attached than anyone in “Iceman 2: The Time Traveller” engaging in a fight, a fall or a leap.
We could continue for very long and still not be able to comprehend the complexity of this timeless multifaceted piece. But two everlasting truths penetrate every pixel-frame of “Iceman 2: The Time Traveller”. One, Japanese are evil, and everyone who gangs up with them is evil too. Just in case you haven`t been to a Chinese university and handed a pamphlet explaining the scope of how evil Japanese are. Two, with time traveling comes great responsibility, so all the tools to do so should stay with He Ying, or even better, be destroyed. Little does it matter that the number of uses of the Golden Wheel of Time surpassed the limit mentioned in the first minutes of “Iceman” and there should not be any further time travels possible. Or, in the case of Iceman, allowed.