A mash-up guaranteed to spin heads

Fan Bingbing in L.O.R.D. - Legend Of Ravaging Dynasties.
Fan Bingbing in L.O.R.D. - Legend Of Ravaging Dynasties. PHOTO: CLOVER FILMS



111 minutes/Opens tomorrow/1/5 stars

The story: In a vaguely mediaeval fantasy world not unlike that in Game Of Thrones, there are seven Dukes with special powers, each with a disciple, who alternately battle and join forces with one another in a struggle for power. There is another group of higher powers called Priests. Below the Dukes are the humans who suffer when the Dukes battle.

Legend Of Ravaging Dynasties is a fascinating emblem of Wanda Pictures billionaire Wang Jianlin's strategy for world commercial conquest.

The man behind the Dalian Wanda Group, which has in recent years bought American cinema chain AMC Theatres and Hollywood studio Legendary Entertainment - not to mention the setting up of a fake Disneyland populated with faux Disney characters - seems to think that all it takes to achieve success is to imitate the successful ventures out there and throw more money at them.

The animated movie, with hints of motion-capture technology, is an amalgam of The Lord Of The Rings (see the title, fantasy world setting, and Legolas' long, white locks), X-Men (Storm's clouded-over eyes), Assassin's Creed (the mysterious hoodie-wearing figures), The Chronicles Of Narnia (a majestic lion) and perhaps even Jurassic Park (rampaging prehistoric- looking animals).

All this is blended and poured out into a weightless computer- generated world where the animation is poor enough that the five senses - especially touch - do not seem to exist.

Characters portrayed by stars such as Fan Bingbing, Kris Wu, Amber Kuo, Yang Mi and Aarif Lee tenderly touch and violently impale one another with the same (non-)impact. They also can run with astonishing speed in one scene, but in another, are incapable of turning their heads without their necks seeming anciently rusty.

Their nearly poreless perfect faces could also be criticised for failing to let any expression emerge, but it is pointless since many TV, movie and pop stars in South Korea and Hollywood are already headed that way with the help of Botox and extremely skilled plastic surgeons.

Still, L.O.R.D. could be a huge hit in China because its director Guo Jingming adapted the screenplay from his own best-selling novel The City Of Fantasy and was also the man behind the huge China boxoffice hit, the trilogy of Tiny Times movies.

For those who have not read The City Of Fantasy, it is essential they watch the movie with those who have. Otherwise, they will think L.O.R.D. is an exercise in turning arthouse film-making into an extreme sport where the top exponents resolutely defy narrative, exposition, coherence, time and, indeed, common sense.

The synopsis this reviewer has provided above is an interpretation of the almost-two-hour headache he suffered as a result of watching computer-game-like characters haphazardly pierce, slash and maim one another with less consequence than a first-person shooter in a video game such as Call Of Duty.

The official version goes like this: "In the mysterious Continent of Odin, Duke VII Silver of Ashland rescues Chi-ling and takes him in as a disciple. Having learnt that ex-Duke I Gilgamesh, his previous master, might still be alive, Silver sets out to find him at all cost. A battle between the Dukes and disciples, in a fight for truth and honour, thus ensues."

Odin as in the Norse mythological god? Gilgamesh as in the demi-god from an ancient Akkadian poem (according to Wikipedia)?

That is a mash-up guaranteed to spin heads like L.O.R.D.'s soundtrack, which marries opera with heavy metal.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2016, with the headline A mash-up guaranteed to spin heads. Subscribe