Painted Skin: The Resurrection (2012)
Director: Wuershan
Writers: Ran Ping and Ran Jia’nan
Starring: Chen Kun, Zhao Wei, Zhou Xun, and Yang Mi

The Plot: Painted Skin: The Resurrection tells the story of ancient spirit Xiaowei (Zhou Xun) who, after being released from an icy grave, intends to become human once again. She plans to use young Princess Jing (Zhao Wei) in order to attain this goal. However, currently the princess is preoccupied with her love for a guard named Huo Xin (played by Chen Kun). Unfortunately, the princess has no faith in her own beauty because she was scarred in an unfortunate attack that Huo Xin was unable to protect her against. Time and space has driven them apart, but these two now have the ability to come together – but if they do, it could mean great conflict in the kingdom. Meanwhile, Xiaowei needs the heart of a decent man in order to venture into the mortal world. When the princess barters with this icy spirit, she compromises her own soul – along with Huo Xin, who may be the decent man that Xiaowei requires.

The Review
As of recent, I have been finding many of these Chinese epics to be burdened down by their own cultural identity, so much that they have almost seemed impenetrable to an outsider like me. Not that the movies aren’t understandable, but to really get most out of them it has required actually studying before truly watching the movies. Although Painted Skin: The Resurrection has its own basis within the rich history of China, it is also a work of such pure fiction that it relies on much more known themes to Western audiences. While the concept of demons, ghosts, spirits, and all supernatural entities are quite different in the East and the West, the central themes of love and longing are much easier to understand for uneducated fools like me. Although The Resurrection isn’t quite on the same level of Twilight, it is in fact a movie that uses horror and supernatural elements to delve into much more emotionally-centered material. At the end of the day, this makes the movie a bit more palatable for mainstream audiences, but it also opens it up to many other objections that are common to romantic dramas. Does it crash and burn, or is it a strong mixed-genre offering? That is what we will be discussing today!

As the title would suggest, Painted Skin: The Resurrection is a sequel to the 2008 film Painted Skin. Featuring many of the returning players, this sequel does its best to stand out on its own. Even without the star power of Donnie Yen, the movie still manages to feel like a pretty big deal. Apparently many others felt the same way, because The Resurrection broke records during its opening run within mainland China and it stands out as one of the highest grossing films in Chinese history. This sounds like hyperbole, but it is actually true, which makes it all the more impressive that Well Go USA would get distribution rights to the film so quickly. While Painted Skin is far from a masterpiece, it is understandable how such a broad audience could be attracted to the film.

Despite being a movie filled with caricatures and genre types, there are still some very fun ideas at play in the movie. Some of the feats that are on display help the movie stand out, and although they might seem ridiculous from an objective standpoint, they do manage to work. In our introduction to General Huo Xin, he is shown taking on a magnificent dare from his fellow soldiers. His cohorts take an empty wine jug and place only a coin inside of it before launching it in the air. Huo Xin, with his eyes closed, fires an arrow directly into the air – shattering the jug and piercing the coin hidden inside. Such feats of strength are usually reserved for ridiculous action movies, and that’s precisely why it works to such great effect here. The environment found in Painted Skin seems entirely accepting of such outrageousness too, because that is how this movie manages to thrive. This outlandish material is also why the poor CGI within the movie becomes slightly more forgivable. By not having a completely serious tone, it is a lot easier to look past some of the more cartoonish special effects found in the film. Not that the CGI found in The Resurrection is the worst you’ll find in contemporary Chinese cinema, not by a longshot, but there is one particular scene revolving around a CG bear that could very well be mentioned in competition.

Painted Skin: The Resurrection doesn’t offer a great deal of completely original content, this I must admit. A mix of the ever faithful “90s-era Hong Kong supernatural” style that audiences may be familiar with, along with the intense tone of contemporary Chinese epics, The Resurrection doesn’t break ground in any single area, but it does manage to entertain while making a few statements. Seemingly influenced by Western films, there are points in The Resurrection that seem as if they would be more at home in the Underworld franchise than perhaps The Bride With White Hair. The Tian Liang army at first seem to be inspired by the portrayal of the Persian warriors found in Zack Snyder’s 300, but by the close of the film they seem to better resemble the army of the dead found in Army of Darkness. The two female ghosts/demons within the film, played by Zhou Xun and Yang Mi, do seem to be much more reminiscent of traditional Chinese ghost stories, but even they seem a little more “out there” than I am accustomed to. Partly angelic, partly demonic, the movie delivers some intriguing concepts via these characters and the assorted rules that dictate everything they are capable of.

The Conclusion
I am a bit torn on Painted Skin: The Resurrection. While I don’t want to give readers the idea that the movie is a must see or a new genre staple, it is very solid. Featuring great performances, a compelling story, mind boggling imagery, and slick production values, The Resurrection is definitely worth searching out. I was torn on what to rate the movie, but I have decided to go for the slightly higher rating of four out of five. I preface my recommendation by pointing out that this is still a genre movie that is rooted deep inside of Chinese culture, but it is easy enough to understand and remains highly entertaining.

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