Today’s version of the “Hero’s Journey” is a Chinese folktale rendered into an impressive-looking mess of a mashup — part medieval fantasy, with Minatours and shape shifters, “Mad Max” post-apocalyptic car chases, firearms and flesh.
“Green Snake” is like the cover of a Robert W. Howard “Conan” book rendered in CGI anime animation — violent and lurid, with lots of action and a little skin.
The story? Well, let’s just say it’s more impressive to look at than to try and follow and absorb.
“Green Snake” is a sequel to a GKids animated folk tale of a few years back, thus the new film’s full title in Chinese — “Bai She 2: Qing She jie qi,” aka “White Snake 2: The Tribulation of the Green Snake.”
One of our heroines, Blanca, was trapped in a magical purgatory by an evil sorcerer. Her sister Verta is obsessed with freeing her. That’s how she winds up a thousand years removed from her Song Dynasty world of magical powers — she could fly, armed with a light sabre with tendrils for blades.
Verta wakes up in a ruined China of the future, a blasted wasteland called Asuraville, populated with humans, demons, spirits, as well as Ox Heads, Horse Heads, “Raska” and octopi.
Verta’s journey to free Blanca means she must find a way out of this place, partly by using her wits, fighting and parkour skills to survive as she’s lost her powers, largely from asking every human (ish) person she meets to lay out another long chapter of exposition.
Is this punishment? Who ends up here?”
“People who cannot accept reality,” she is told. It has to do with obsessions, “unfulfilled desires” that take over your life. “If you’re here, it’s clearly because you can’t let go.“
Verta can’t let go of Blanca. Her odyssey leads her to all sorts of ways out of Asuraville, into all sorts of fights with a shifting series of alliances.
It’s easier to follow than it it so explain as a movie plot. “Green Snake” isn’t awful, just kind of nonsensical, a time-sucking quest tale that has little that’s original mixed in with all the derivations.
The fun bits are a montage of Verta being shown how to cope with cars, flashlights, motorcycles, laptops and soda cans.
We don’t have to wonder if she’ll transition to a warrior’s halter-top sports bra. That’s a given.
I kind of like the Eastern mysticism floating through the odd bits of dialogue. Even the villain, Fahai, has his moments.
“I am not worthy,” he admits. “Dharma is eternal…The pursuit of illusion bars the way to Nirvana.”
You don’t say? Changed my life. Actually, “Green Snake” just sucked a couple of hours out it.
If you stay through the credits, which do NOT list the English language (Netflix) voice cast, there’s a hint of more “Snakes” to come.
Rating: TV-14, fear, violence
Credits: Directed by Amp Wong, scripted by Damoa. A Netflix release.
Running time: 2:13