The Thousand Faces of Dunjia (2017)

Posted in Reviews by - March 23, 2018
The Thousand Faces of Dunjia (2017)

Bonkers, CGI-heavy craziness from the hyperactive mind of Tsui Hark. Although Yuen Woo-ping may have been recruited to direct, Tsui’s fingerprints are all over this; a film which shares the same Chinese name as Woo-ping’s seminal supernatural fu, The Miracle Fighters (1982), although the two have very little in common. Whereas The Miracle Fighters focused Woo-ping’s wild imagination and sublime choreography in the world of the occult, this is more of a creature feature which sidelines physical combat (for which Woo-ping is a master) in favour of giant winged beast battles and glowing red things with tentacles. So those expecting a wuxia genre piece with glorious wire fu action will be disappointed; its more thematically connected to Tsui Hark’s Zu Warriors work. You get a sense of the film’s wackiness from the opening set-piece, in which new police chief Dao (Aarif Rahman) chases a giant three-eyed fish over village rooftops before a female fighter named Dragonfly (Ni Ni) catches it and brings the creature back to her underground cave for questioning. Aliens and humans have gone about their business in secret for centuries, apparently, and Dragonfly belongs to a secret sect of magical fighters known as the Wuyin clan, who protect the world when powerful forces threaten to overrun it; a bit like the Power Rangers, then, or Guardians of the Galaxy. The details of the story get a bit hazy, not helped by some confusing narrative strands, some of which lead nowhere. There’s a section in which the Wuyin leader disappears to battle with five clan leaders in pursuit of the Destroyer of Worlds, but there is little context given to what this actually is and why it’s important, and the purpose of the clan leaders seems to be something of an empty ploy for some crazy action. The subplot involving a young child, Circle (Zhou Dongyu, very good), is more realised. She feels like a Stephen King character, rescued by Wuyin’s second-in-command, Zhuge (Da Peng), from a cave at a hospital for dangerous people. She has healing capabilities and can manifest into a giant feathery hawk creature, and she may potentially be the future Wuying leader, much to Dragonfly’s chagrin. Her shape-shifting skills will certainly come in handy when a meteorite buried in the earth’s core explodes, unleashing a flying blue-eyed beastie and an ethereal floating red alien made of earthworms. Most of the humour is of the slapstick variety, and it’s self-aware enough to have fun with its characters, even if the film is consumed by spectacle.

AKA: The Miracle Warriors.

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Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a laptop in London, UK.

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