Director Stephen Fung took a bold step in the creation of Tai Chi 0. The film melded the Tai Chi style with a steampunk atmosphere, creating something very different and unique. He hired Sammo Hung to direct the action while casting newcomer Yuan Xiaochao in the lead role. With supporting cast members like Angelababy and Tony Leung Ka Fai, would the film be able to impress audiences while satisfying those craving a good fight?
Right from the start, I need to address the visual style of Tai Chi 0. It’s a very polarizing style that some will enjoy while other’s won’t. Regardless of how the story and characters are, your enjoyment will be based off of how you accept the effects. The plot itself is very basic, and it’s apparent that the sequel was filmed right after. If you’ve ever watched a martial arts film, there are no twists at all in the story, which is disappointing. (Also, is everyone in Chen Village related? Cause there is no way there are that many members in anyone’s family.) The other main issue with the story is that it can’t find the right tone. One moment it’s slapstick funny while the next it’s awkwardly intense and dramatic. It’s not necessarily the story of the movie, but how it’s handled.
The characters don’t suffer as much from the effects as the story does. Each character has a foundation for why they are in the film and justifications as to why they act a certain way. I liked how the background was given for the good guys as well as the bad guys, but I wished that more happened during the film. It feels as if a lot of character development was cut short in order to meet the runtime, which was set in order to make the film a trilogy.
The visual style is very prominent in Tai Chi 0, and it affects the fights as well. Some effects add more depth to the fights (like the illustrations of foot placement and lock positions) while others seem a bit odd (like health bars and combo counters.) The end fight was a bit of a letdown, but that’s because it’s not the real conclusion. Most of the fights are short sparring sessions that are quick and flashy, but that’s about it. Personally, I didn’t enjoy the fights as much because there wasn’t anything meaningful in the action and the effects detracted me from the film.
Own it, Watch it, Try it, or Skip it?
Ever since I saw the trailer for Tai Chi 0, I was looking forward to seeing it. After watching it, I’m not quite sure how I feel about it. The movie is most often compared to Scott Pilgrim, and rightly so. However, Scott Pilgrim used the effects to add more depth to the story as well as the action, pulling the viewer in. Tai Chi’s effects end up being more of a distraction than an enhancement, often making the viewer sit back and go “what?” One good example is the fact that when new characters are announced, the description tells you who the actor is and what they have been in. It was really surprising and made me wonder why that choice was made.
For the select few that Tai Chi 0 appeals to, it offers something that cannot be replicated. Sadly, the sparratic story, short-lived fights, and distracting visuals make it hard to recommend to everyone. Give this one a try and see how it fits your tastes.