League of Gods (Feng Shen Bang, 2016)

Chinese wuxia-fantasy films have become a strange cinematic hybrid of post-LOTR computer-graphic epics and superhero films, with everything happening in a completely animated environment and lots of characters with funny names and outlandish powers — a standard of the genre from the beginning, admittedly. Add in the old-fashioned lightening-fast, blink-and-you-miss-it exposition of the Hong Kong fantasies of the ’80s, and you get League of Gods. This is said to be based on a 16th-century novel of great repute called Fengshen Bang or Investiture of Gods, about the transition from the Shang dynasty to the Zhou dynasty.

As so often with Chinese fantasies, I wonder if it would make more sense to me if I knew the underlying literature. As it was, this felt like the plot had been created by a random wuxia cliche generator. There was almost enough weirdness (such as the baby with the super farts) to keep me distracted, but in the end I felt beaten down by the loud, over-emphatic crassness of it all, which is frankly the way I feel at the end of most superhero movies and post-LOTR computer-graphic epics too. Interesting to see Jet Li playing the white-haired old master, Jiang, in this one. I guess he is now of a Certain Age.

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