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Louis Koo in a still from Warriors of Future (category IIB), directed by Ng Yuen-fai and co-starring Lau Ching-wan and Carina Lau. The ambitious, big-budget sci-fi adventure sets new standards for Hong Kong special effects filmmaking.

Review | Warriors of Future movie review: Louis Koo’s sci-fi passion project sets new standards for Hong Kong special effects, but is too generic to stand out internationally

  • Starring Louis Koo and Lau Ching-wan, this big-budget sci-fi has impressive visuals and a strong cast, but lacks an engaging narrative and relatable characters
  • Its story of Hong Kong under siege is one we’ve seen before, and on a grander scale, in Hollywood movies. With no fresh ideas, Warriors fails to stand out

3/5 stars

A hugely ambitious and expensive production that has spent so many years in production as to have become a legend of sorts in the Hong Kong film industry, this passion project of Louis Koo Tin-lok – the popular actor turned movie mogul – finally arrives to show us the future.

Or at least that’s the intention.

Special effects aficionados can probably breathe a sigh of relief upon seeing the wall-to-wall dystopian visual details – which occasionally merge with Hong Kong landmarks – in Warriors of Future, the directing debut of visual effects veteran Ng Yuen-fai.

Genuine science fiction fans are entitled to feel a tad underwhelmed by the utterly generic screenplay of Lau Ho-leung (director of Caught in Time) and Mak Tin-shu (co-writer of Trivisa and Detective vs Sleuths), however.
While undoubtedly informed by avid Star Wars fan Koo’s affinity for old-school sci-fi action adventure stories, this mega-budget blockbuster’s lack of fresh ideas will see it struggle to break out internationally the way other notable Asian fantasy films – like Battle Royale, Kung Fu Hustle or Train to Busan – have previously.
(From left) Tse Kwan-ho as Professor Chong-chung, Carina Lau as Tam Bing, and Lau Ching-wan as Johnson, in a still from Warriors of Future.

In a simplistic narrative that exists solely to string together the action set pieces, we’re introduced to an alien plant named Pandora that arrived at district B16 – an apocalyptic Hong Kong – with a giant meteorite three months earlier; how that impact didn’t kill off everyone already might be the actual mystery.

Anyhow, with the plant expected to destroy the city through its rapid growth during an imminent rainstorm, a small air combat team led by Tyler (Koo) and Johnson (Lau Ching-wan) is tasked with the last-minute mission of locating Pandora’s pistil and reprogramming its genes just in time to save the 5.6 million people in B16.

But not everyone in military headquarters wants them to succeed – and, to cater to audiences who prefer to watch this type of movie with their brains shut down, the secret villain reveals the reason failure is preferable in an early scene.

Nick Cheung as B16’s leader, Lee Sing, in a still from Warriors of Future.

Despite featuring an enviable cast that also includes Philip Keung Ho-man as a former lieutenant and buddy of the two leads, Carina Lau Ka-ling as a supportive colonel, Tse Kwan-ho as a genius scientist and Nick Cheung Ka-fai as B16’s conflicted leader, Warriors of Future shows little care for character development or humour.

Many of the fantasy action elements are fun to watch, even if they are plucked from significantly better sci-fi movies. There are armour suits that look like Iron Man-lite; incoherent battle scenes respectively featuring said giant plant, some zombie insects, and a few random robots; and even a walk-on little girl that suddenly tags along for the heroes to rescue.

Cynical viewers may argue it’s hardly worthwhile spending so much money just to portray a Hong Kong under siege. Hollywood tent-pole films, from Pacific Rim and Transformers: Age of Extinction to Ghost in the Shell and Godzilla vs. Kong, have done this so many times, and sometimes on an even grander scale, that Koo’s attempt was always going to be fool’s gold.
Philip Keung as Skunk in a still from Warriors of Future.

Ultimately, Warriors of Future stands more as an important milestone for the local industry – it’s a lock for plenty of technical prizes at the next Hong Kong Film Awards – than an irresistibly entertaining movie that will entice audiences to watch it time and again.

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