Green Snake, Netflix’s latest Chinese animation, thrills with imaginative backdrops and spectacular battles. But is weighed down by an overly cumbersome story.
Green Snake (白蛇2：青蛇劫起) Synopsis
Green Snake is also known as White Snake 2: The Tribulation of the Green Snake. It is the sequel to 2019’s White Snake and is a modern take on the classic Chinese myth, Madam White Snake.
As punishment for flooding the Golden Mount Temple, exorcist monk Fa Hai imprisons Bai Suzhen in the Thunder Peak Pagoda and banishes Xiao Qing to the Asura realm. Stripped of her powers, Xiao Qing is forced to rely on pure physical prowess to survive the brutal, dystopian world. Everything changes, however, when the green snake discovers a way to flee the realm, and when she encounters a mysterious young man with a perplexing identity.
I first came to know of Green Snake after watching New Gods, Nezha Reborn. The trailer was used as a mid-credits Easter Egg.
What I saw immediately intrigued me, as well as sent me on a heated hunt for the movie that Green Snake is a sequel to, i.e., 2019’s White Snake. After watching White Snake, wow, was I impressed! The quality of animation aside, that production wasn’t just an Anime retelling of a classic Chinese myth. Neither could you consider it revisionist.
Instead, it was a literary probe, a surprisingly modern exploration of themes oft-ignored by traditional Chinese literature. It also made me a fan of China’s Light Chaser Animation Studio and their efforts to craft a “superhero universe” using traditional Chinese mythological characters. The short of it, I greatly looked forward to what Light Chaser has to say about Qing She, i.e., Xiao Qing. In the Chinese world, the Green Snake is as famous as her sister but inevitably always depicted as the classic faithful sister. To say she is 2D in most retellings is an understatement.
Well, a lot is discussed about Xiao Qing in this sequel but before that, allow me to comment on the visual extravaganza that is the stage of the story. From the trailers, I knew the movie would have a modern setting, but in no way did I expect a dystopian world so rich in detail and creativity. So utterly glorious, majestic, and poignant, with its complexity and mystery.
As if savouring my thrill, the show takes every opportunity to showcase this stage. Thrilling, extensive chases punctuate the entire movie. Combat sequences are full of slo-mos to let you drink in not only the magic and the action, but also the spectacle beyond.
It’s … visual revelry. An octane-fueled journey through a world that’s impossible and deadly, and emotionally irresistible.
It also, unfortunately, creates a contrast that highlights the deadweight of the show. This being how, despite all that energy and colour, the story takes forever to get somewhere. If it does so at all.
Yeah, as introspective and as intriguing as all the Buddhist philosophical discussions are, the story crawls like a tortoise. All story threads do ultimately achieve resolutions, of course, but none have any real punch left by the end. Some are even rendered irrelevant.
Add to which is the big mystery, which begins about a third into the show and stretches all the way INTO THE CREDITS. Now, I’m well-familiar with the Chinese reincarnation tropes involved. The way the story plays out, it’s also obvious what the truth is, especially if you’ve watched the first movie.
But developments were just so slow and ponderous. So hazy. So dead.
Was such a storytelling style really necessary to explore, or contain, the philosophical themes discussed? Complex as these were?
No, if you ask me. A snappier tale, with more dramatic twists, would have suited the frenetic adventure far better.
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