2011 Written by Gordon Chan Ka-Seung, Lau Ho-Leung, Frankie Tam Gong-Yuen, and Maria Wong Si-Man
Directed by Gordon Chan Ka-Seung and Danny Go Lam-Paau
Mural is another attempt from China to make bigger Hollywood-style pictures, which is both a good and a bad thing. It is good that money is being brought into make epic films. It is bad because the films being produced are all generic garbage. And as the money flows away from Hong Kong into the pack of upstart Mainland production companies, things are changing rapidly in both Hong Kong and Chinese cinema. But this review isn’t about that, it’s about Mural, a story about a guy who goes into a painting full of fairy women.
While Mural certainly looks nice, the story doesn’t hold up to the visuals and things become very bland. The visuals of creatures and monsters make good spectacles, even if the CGI isn’t up to par with Western films yet. Monsters and beauties are the two main attractions to Mural, there is enough of both you can let some things slide. Some good scenes and creativity in monster design help make certain points more memorable, but the underlying uninteresting characters and the obvious conclusion of the main love story cause things to not be so much a journey as just a trip through a museum.
Like Gordan Chan’s prior film Painted Skin, it is a tale from Pu Songling’s story collection Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio. The tomb contains nearly 500 tales, and has been the basis for dozens of films and tv series, including the Chinese Ghost Story films.
There are far too many of the models/actresses/singers playing the fariy women to list them all in the Roll Call, but I should name drop a few, like model-actress Monica Mok Xiao-Qi, Xia Yi-Yao, and Bao Wen-Jing. And now we will never mention them again! Even Eric Tsang Chi-Wai shows up with ear extensions as a goofy monk.
Zhu Xiaolian (Deng Chao) – A scholar studying for government exams at the capital who runs into adventure while on his journey there. Zhu likes to speak big talk of responsibility and becoming a good person, his sense of justice propelling part of the plot. Deng Chao is also in Detective Dee.
Meng Longtan (Ngai Sing) – A thief who is caught trying to rob Zhu and his servant. Ends up joining him on his trip into the painting and marrying a good chunk of the fairies.
Hou Xia (Bao Bei-Er) – Zhu’s servant who spends most of the film following Zhu around like a puppy, though he does manage to grow a tad as a character.
Queen (Yan Ni) – The nameless vain Queen of the fairy realm. Her rants against men hint at a greater insanity and bitterness, living in a world of her own creation for years. Her dress is reminiscent of evil queens from Disney films. Yan Ni is also in All’s Well Ends Well 2011.
Shaoyao (Betty Sun Li) – The Queen’s main servant, who is disliked by the rest of the fairies due to her closeness with the Queen. Suffers from self-esteem issues. Betty Sun Li can also be seen in Kung Fu Cyborg.
Mudan (Zheng Shuang) – Carefree childish fairy who travels to the human world briefly and encounters Zhu, and is then punished for what she did. Zheng Shuang is a Mainland newcomer to film who graduated from the Beijing Film Academy in 2011. Since 2009, she has starred in several tv series and has been releasing albums.
Yunmei (Ada Liu Yan) – Fairy lady who both dates Rock Monsters and is married 2 times to Meng and then Hou Xia, both really without her consent. Ada Liu Yan (主播柳岩) is a tv hostess turned actress/singer who will look completely different if you find some of her old pageant photos, and is one of the few actresses honest about it.
Cuizhu (Xie Nan) – Mudan’s best friend and a carefree spirit, Zhu pretends marriage to her in order to stay in the fairy world and find out what happened to Mudan. Xie Nan is a TV host and anchorwoman turn Mandopop singer who debuted in 2010. She’s briefly in All’s Well Ends Well 2011
Golden Warrior (Andy On Chi-Kit) – Golden Warrior is the only male-looking character allowed in the fairy world, he transforms from a bronze owl to defend the realm. Has a longing for Shaoyao that is not reciprocated. Totally isn’t He-Man.