Detective Dee: Mystery of the Phantom Flame

Detective Dee: Mystery of the Phantom Flame is visually interesting, but the story is somewhat confusing and the action falls flat.

I saw a trailer for Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon that looked cool, so I requested it from the library. When it came in, I checked IMDb to see if it was any good or not, and I found out it was actually a prequel. I figured I had better watch the original one first. I love the  Huayi Brothers movies. They're always so gorgeous. The costumes in this movie were great. The sets were beautiful; I loved the use of different colors of light. It was cool how the eyes of the Buddha looked out over the city; it was such an interesting shape to look out of.

The action was confusing, though. I had no idea what was going on half the time. I think I'd like to see fewer movies choreographed by Sammo Hung. It just gets boring when you can't follow what's going on. I had a hard time following the characters and the plot, too. I could've used some of the pop-on character names from the Tai Chi movies here.

Maybe it was supposed to be ambiguous if Donglai was a good guy or a bad guy, but I didn't like not knowing. Jing'er was a weird name, too. It seemed like they were trying to do a version of Ginger. I hated the ending; that the Empress gave up her throne. Why would she even do that? It said she was honoring her promise to Dee, but I didn't even really see her agree to it. And even if she did I don't think she would've done it. It just didn't make sense; it was too easy and too abrupt.

The CG deer were really bad. And it was kind of sad that he was fighting animals, even if they were CGI. It was really sad when Jing'er died, too. And Donglai. I don't think they needed to kill both of them. And Dee shouldn't have wasted so much time cutting Donglai's chains. He could've just tossed a sheet over him or something, and he would've been protected.

I didn't get the whole fire beetle thing. I must not have fully comprehended the subtitles when they explained it. They eat a lot of phosphorus, so they explode in the sun? Okay, sure. But then if they bite you or even get on you for 30 seconds, somehow they transfer that quality over to you? The bad guy had them crawling on him, and then his whole body burst into flames. I don't think their saliva would really be that potent that it would affect your entire body so quickly. It was a weird premise to base so many things on.

I thought the reveal of who was behind the plot was fine. Andy Lau did a great job with Dee. He was really charismatic. The movie wouldn't have been as good without him. Bingbing Li is gorgeous, too. I didn't think the moments when Dee realized things and they flashed back to certain moments were very well done. They were too obvious.

I didn't really get who the Chaplain was or what was going on with that whole story. Obviously I know the Jing'er was the Chaplain, but why did she want Dee freed? I guess since the Empress knew she was the Chaplain, it was really the Empress who wanted him released. Maybe she just really did want him to solve the case. I liked Jing'er's whip. That was a cool weapon. Her fight with Dee in the bedroom was probably the most interesting one. The fights start to lose their novelty when they're so unrealistic, though. Part of the fun of watching a fight is seeing how amazing it is that someone could actually pull that off, but if it's all fake, it loses a lot of the entertainment value.

I was pretty tired when I watched this, and although I was always interested to know who was behind everything, it also seemed to drag and I just wanted it to end already.

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