Chinese Reviews Reviews

Film Review: A Writer’s Odyssey (2021) by Lu Yang

Hollywood super hero movies could take a lesson or two from Lu Yang

The fantasy/action blockbusters have been coming in scores in the latest years from China, with the Chinese New Year always being the date production and distribution companies circle for the release of such films. ” A Writer's Odyssey”, based on a short novel by Shuang Xuetao, is a prominent sample.

CMC Pictures will release “A Writer's Odyssey” in cinemas across North America, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore on February 12, with Macau and Taiwan following in the same month

The script unfolds in two axes, which intermingle, each one affecting, and occasionally shaping the other. In the first, the “real-life” one, Guan Ning, a man with the superpower to throw projectiles at lethal speed and control their direction fully, is desperately searching for his daughter, who has been kidnapped by traffickers six years ago. Eventually, Tu Ling, a mysterious woman working for the founder of Aladdin Group conglomerate, persuades him to assassinate young writer Lu Kongwen, who has been writing a fantasy novel titled “Godslayer” for six years, which appears to be shaping reality and threatening the life of Li, whose fate seems to be connected with the main villain in the book, Lord Redmane. In exchange, Tu Ling promises that they can reunite Guan Ning with his daughter. The desperate father reluctantly agrees, but finds out that killing a man who has not hurt him is much more difficult than he anticipated.

The second axis follows the novel, and takes place in a fantasy land where Kongwen, a young man, is searching for his sister, whom he has lost to Redmane's henchmen. From the beginning of the arc, he is infected by a parasitic being who takes the form of Black Armor, essentially a living suit that covers Kongwen's body, including an eye that is situated in the middle of his chest. The two of them embark on a journey to Ranliang Kingdom, where Redmane rules, whose death has become the young man's sole goal. Eventually, they find themselves being accompanied by a young girl in search of her father, while a Crimson Guard is on their heels.

As the two stories affect each other, loyalties change, the mysteries become more intense, and nothing is as it seems.

As is usual the case with Chinese blockbusters, the narrative is not exactly coherent, more like nonsensical since the focus is always on entertainment, and the story actually revolves around key (action) scenes. Furthermore, most of the characters remain underdeveloped, particularly the villains, and the ways reality affects fantasy and vice versa is somewhat confusing, in an approach though, that causes a sense of disorientation to the viewer that actually works quite well in the narrative, at least in terms of entertainment.

Elements of humor, which occasionally is quite smart, and moreover, the fact that the violence in the story can be quite brutal at times, add even more to the entertainment it offers, as they allow the narrative, to, thankfully, move away from the clutches of the PG-13 rules.

Where the movie truly thrives though, is the action, which, essentially, is the main focus here. The combination of having a “real-life” storyline where people with superpowers fight each other, and a fantasy one which seems to have jumped straight from a J-RPG, works exceptionally well for the movie, as it allows for completely different styles of action. Granted, the fantasy one is the most impressive, but the combination of martial arts/superpowers of the main one, is also quite entertaining.

Furthermore, as the story progresses, the action scenes become lengthier and more impressive, with the final battle being truly epic in both conception and implementation, particularly in the way it unfolds in both axes at the same time. Additionally, the whole concept of the battling cities, which also includes a rather imposing parade and an even more majestic battle, induces the movie with a “Mad Max”-element that also works great.

The whole conception of Lord Redmane is probably the most memorable element of the action aspect, with the way the giant talks, moves, and most importantly, fights, being totally epic, with the film being worth a watch just for the scenes he features in. Qiming Han's cinematography and the SFX find their apogee in these scenes, which fans of video games will definitely enjoy immensely, due to both its visuals and the overall way it unfolds, which has “final boss” written all over it. Some issues with the movement of the characters occasionally do appear, but they are lost inside the overall quality of these sequences.

As was always the concept of wuxia films, the action is what truly matters, and in that regard, “A Writer's Odyssey” truly excels, in one of the most impressive action fantasy mashup we have seen in the latest years. Hollywood super hero movies could take a lesson or two from .

About the author

Panos Kotzathanasis

Panagiotis (Panos) Kotzathanasis is a film critic and reviewer, specialized in Asian Cinema. He is the owner and administrator of Asian Movie Pulse, one of the biggest portals dealing with Asian cinema. He is a frequent writer in Hancinema, Taste of Cinema, and his texts can be found in a number of other publications including SIRP in Estonia, in Slovakia, Asian Dialogue in the UK, Cinefil in Japan and Filmbuff in India.

Since 2019, he cooperates with Thessaloniki Cinematheque in Greece, curating various tributes to Asian cinema. He has participated, with video recordings and text, on a number of Asian movie releases, for Spectrum, Dekanalog and Error 4444. He has taken part as an expert on the Erasmus+ program, “Asian Cinema Education”, on the Asian Cinema Education International Journalism and Film Criticism Course.

Apart from a member of FIPRESCI and the Greek Cinema Critics Association, he is also a member of NETPAC, the Hellenic Film Academy and the Online Film Critics Association.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter