Iceman: The Time Traveler film review – Donnie Yen’s sci-fi action sequel an insult to the paying public
- A film so incoherent and nonsensical as to appear incomplete, this hopeless sequel to the awful 2014 film Iceman has rightly bombed at the China box office
- Yen reprises his role as a time-travelling Ming dynasty general, with Simon Yam as his scheming nemesis
There are badly scripted movies, and then there is Iceman: The Time Traveler, a film so lacking in coherence, common sense and the most basic character arcs throughout its 87-minute runtime as to be an insult to the paying public. Even hard -core fans of Donnie Yen Ji-dan should think twice before seeing it.
A sequel to 2014 3D martial arts fantasy Iceman that was supposed to hit cinemas in the same year, The Time Traveler had been shelved indefinitely until this month – perhaps because no sane viewer would choose to watch this until they’ve completely forgotten about the original film, which is just as awful but at least tells a relatively complete story.
Since it opened in China in early November to overwhelmingly negative reviews, The Time Traveler has bombed at the box office and stirred up an online war of words between its Chinese production company and Yen himself – not surprising given the film appears to be incomplete and a mindless assemblage of errant scenes.
The omens are not good when the first 10 minutes of the film are dedicated to a voiced-over montage about the science of time-travelling and an overlong recap of Iceman.
This reviewer laughed for the first and only time upon seeing Simon Yam Tat-wah’s police inspector be told, without irony, that a body in the morgue still has a pulse. It is not a joke, and the film goes downhill from there.
Yen reprises his role (though is dubbed for the part) as He Ying, a general in China’s Ming dynasty who is granted a time-travelling device by a holy monk during a pilgrimage in 1624 AD, only to be framed by his power-hungry blood brothers as a traitor of the state, resulting in the annihilation of his home village. All the principal characters are then frozen under the snow during an avalanche.
In Iceman, He was awakened in present-day Hong Kong alongside his brothers-turned nemeses, and caused much damage in the city. In this sequel the evil Yuanlong (Yam) blackmails He into sending him back to the Ming dynasty to take over the kingdom. Meanwhile, He is intent on changing history – or at least the fate of his fellow villagers.
As the story devolves into a series of disjointed episodes, we see He and his love interest May (Eva Huang Shengyi) traverse space and time to do little of much interest (although curiously, there appear to be Japanese villains wherever they look). Then a Japanese general, Hojo (Yasuaki Kurata), is conveniently enlisted by Yuanlong to wipe out He’s village all over again.
It’s not clear why Yuanlong and Hojo, respectively, feel compelled to do what they do. But such is the inconsistency throughout Iceman: The Time Traveler that – spoiler alert, if you’re somehow steadfast in checking out this movie – even after our hero promises to save someone (May, the villagers, etc.) we don’t get to see him do so.
Purely on a narrative level, this film needs several recuts, if not a 30-minute third act, to start making sense. As it is, the upcoming legal battle between Yen and the producers already looks more exciting than anything that happens in this ill-fated production.
Iceman: The Time Traveler opens on November 15
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