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In the twilight of the Ming Dynasty, the Imperial court is plagued by corruption as tyrants rule over the land. With the Manchurians preying on a weakened empire, war is imminent. To save the victims from their suffering, sorceress Jade Raksha fights the soldiers that oppress people for their own gain. As payback, local government officials decide to pin the murder of Governor Zhuo Zhonglian on Jade, turning her and the members of her cult into wanted fugitives for a crime they didn't commit. Written by
Despite its Flaws, one cannot deny the Magical Experience Conveyed by The White Haired Witch
From the gorgeously executed opening, you know you have encountered something special, though the film occasionally falters in its ability to constantly meet the expectations it initially sets. The visually elegant features include the brilliantly colorful costumes that demand viewer attention, alongside the picturesque beauty of the landscape that is as artful as it is pleasant, however, at the same time, obviously unrealistic, and though the grand scale of the film's ambition can be clearly realized when these elements work well, on more than one occasion, the film seems to be an example of a production studio exceeding their grasp. During one segment, there's an endless mass of troops, depicted through well used effects, however, the fight itself occurs between only a handful of soldiers, leaving those thrilled by epic battles dismayed, this contrast between the realities of the production, and its terrific execution, continuously butting heads.
This aside, the stylized fight sequences are suspenseful and dashing, the characters moving gracefully through the air, however, those familiar with other like features will probably encounter little new content, despite the awe of its execution, or the significance of the entertainment. The battles are very quick, though at the same time easy to focus upon, while it is the soundtrack that is truly visionary. Although there is one track that bares resemblance to one my ears have previously been blessed by in a former film, the themes are continuously fascinating, brilliantly encapsulating the moment, from the passion to the futility, from the excitement to the grief.
Zhou Yihang (Huang Xiaoming) is a newly elected Wudong leader, who is tasked with the honor of delivering Red Pills to the Emperor, to help secure the longevity of their ailing ruler, the people of Wudong renown as medical practitioners. On his trek towards the kingdom, he encounters an unnamed woman (Fan Bingbing), who, if beauty was a crime, would be locked up for eternity. Referred to by others as Jade Raksha, Zhou promises to one day give her a name suiting a woman of her unmatched gorgeousness, hoping to meet her again.
Accused later of poisoning the Emperor with the Red Pills be brought, and hunted by the secret police, Zhou finds himself in the middle of a tyrannical battle, as countless treacherous war-mongers and politicians alike vie for power in this turbulent time. The first portion of the feature, in which the aforementioned story is introduced, could easily be described as difficult, the narrative being clouded by an unfathomable number of sub-plots and characters alike, where several non-important characters have their names presented on screen for the viewer, while none of the leads are ever provided such an honor.
Although navigating this jumbled mass can prove uneasy, many of the plots remaining unfulfilled in their execution, the film manages to steady itself once the love story becomes a major focus. Jade Raksha, who fights to help the oppressed people, finds herself equally accused of a crime she did not commit - the murder of Governor Zhonglian. She and Zhou are forced to return to her fortress, the Lunar Kindgom, where she and many others watch over the land in their attempt to bring prosperity back to the region, while Manchurians and corrupt officials, especially the villainous Jin Duyi (Vincent Zhou), wish to cripple Jade's land, and all those who follow her.
Unable to resist her beauty, grace and compassion, the relationship between Zhou and Jade contains many poetic, melancholy conversations, her view that love is poisonous being a well developed notion that continues throughout the feature. Although one particular segment of dialogue seems to copy from the Notebook, the emotion and poignancy throughout their many interactions is fantastically maintained, being, arguably, the most sweepingly beautiful part of the narrative, which is especially due to the talents of the actors.
Although Ms. Bingbing receives a notable role in the feature, she deserved a much larger part, occasionally being overshadowed by her co-star, Mr. Xiaoming. This is particularly frustrating, as Jade is a far more mysterious and interesting character, with elements of her story, including the cursed affliction that causes her hair to turn white, although subtly hinted towards, never being provided a thoroughly acceptable explanation.
By the time the conclusion is imminent, the number of unanswered questions is staggering, which leads this writer to wonder if the producers were perhaps planning to promulgate a sequel. If not, although the beauty of the film's ending cannot be denied, it could only be described as alarmingly disappointing, for a majority of the plots conceived within the narrative are never provided a sufficient resolution. As a love story, The White haired Witch cannot possibly be faulted, however, as an epic war feature, or a fantastical historic drama, the film significantly requires further substance.
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