Vampire Owl: I know a man who was wearing the Iron Mask.
Vampire Bat: I am sure that these people are not talking about that creature Doctor Frankenstein brought to life.
Vampire Owl: No, I am talking about the mask in the Great Vampire Museum.
Vampire Bat: Okay, you are talking about the ceremonial mask of the vampire elders.
Vampire Owl: Yes, it is something like that, I believe.
Vampire Bat: Do you know that you can forget the mask because the original title of the flick is Viy 2: Journey to China?
Vampire Owl: I guess that has both Russia and China then.
Vampire Bat: It is loosely based on the Russian writer Nikolai Gogol’s horror novella Viy, and is a sequel to the movie which is released a long time ago.
Vampire Owl: But I see no horror around here, only fantasy adventure.
Vampire Bat: Yes, as mentioned earlier, it seems to be loosely based.
[Gets a strawberry cake and three cups of iced tea].
What is the movie about? :: The movie begins with the talk about a great dragon which lived in the far south of the heavenly empire. His eyelashes which went down deep into the ground came back on the surface as beautiful plants – they healed thsoe people on Earth who were suffering. The leaves of this plant was known as tea, and the special powers of the drink made from these leaves spread far and wide. To take care of his eyelashes and preserve the greatness and healing properties of tea, a group known as white wizards were given the power, along with a magical seal. People from all over the world wanted this new drink known as tea, and they gave away great riches, including gold, silver and those which they considered precious in a personal manner. Some of these white wizards were too greedy, and with the help of a two-faced witch, they took over the cave of the dragon. The white wizards lost the battle to free the dragon, and all was lost.
So, what happens with the events here? :: English traveller Jonathan Green (Jason Flemyng) had an order from Peter the Great (Yuri Kolokolnikov) to map the Russian Far East, as nobody knew how huge the Russian Empire was, at that time. He already had a scientific voyage from England to the East earlier, passing through Transylvania and crossing the Carpathian Mountains. This new journey though, was supposed to be awarded, but he ends up finding himself in the prison, as the emperor he knew is not the one on the throne, and has come with some strange reforms too. He finally manages to get out of there with the help of Lord Dudley (Charles Dance) and is accompanied by a boy named Cheng Lan (Helen Yao) on his journey, who is actually the princess, the daughter of the master of white wizards. They embark on a journey to China on a carriage, and they battle random people, as Cheng shows great martial arts skills in defeating them, but chooses to stay at the top of the carriage so that Jonathan won’t know that she is a girl.
And what else is to follow in a world of magic, both good and evil? :: Meanwhile, Jonathan’s lover Miss Dudley (Anna Churina) goes to the prison, and leads to the events directing to the escape of Peter after some period of continuous fighting. But the great Master (Jackie Chan) can’t escape from James Hook (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who handles the prison tower, and gets him back into his cell, this time in solitary confinement. Peter does manage to get into a Russian ship leaving for China, as he pretends to be one of the workers in the port, and hides himself. Miss Dudley also manages to sneak in by hiding the fact that she is a lady, but when the sailors find out the truth, they corner her, and is almost molested, but Peter saves the ship from a storm, and they makes him the new captain, saving Dudley herself. As the two groups travel to China, one by land and the other on water, can these people save the enslaved people of their lands and free the dragon responsible for the creation of tea, along with making Russia better?
The defence of The Iron Mask :: This is one beautiful movie as far as the visuals are concerned. As a Russian and Chinese co-production, this was supposed to have beautiful visuals of both nations from the time period when they are based, and we are not disappointed with the same – the special effects add really well here too. We see the wide difference at both places, like we see in an Age of Empires game, for two civilizations’ variety in buildings and more are also seen, especially with so many nice shots from above. The action sequences are brilliantly done. The final fighting sequences are stylish, and visually stunning, with a dragon, people with special powers, and martial arts. The CGI is very well used for the same. It is the kind of fantasy that reminds one of movies like The Hobbit, and at times makes sure that you don’t miss Avengers anymore, as heroism with magic and superpowers never gets too far away. The story about tea is a lovely addition and so is the humour around here.
The claws of flaw :: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jackie Chan, even though do make us feel better with this movie with their presence, gets into the action only the beginning stages. They could have been given more to do, considering the fact that they are the two people in this movie whom everyone knows, and a good reason why everyone will watch this one without hesitation – they were even in many posters, but Helen Yao is a good actress, and leads the path well in comparison to the others. There is also a certain level of predictability related to this movie, and the English dubbing doesn’t seem to be that good either – it does work better than Abigail, another Russian movie which released in the same year. One does feel that the previous movie and the book might score better in writing, because this one seems to focus on the visuals a lot more than everything else, with the exception of the action sequences which were always supposed to be there.
How it finishes :: The previous movie Viy a.k.a. Forbidden Empire was not that popular in this part of the world, and this is the first time I have known about its existence, even though I was writing many fantasy movie reviews during that time. But I understand that it did make an impact then. Viy 2: Journey to China also known as The Iron Mask is not written as a dark fantasy like the previous movie, but in the form of fantasy adventure, not really going dark as expected. This one seems to be well suited for all kinds of audience, and it is a journey of adventure in a colourful world, that one can remember for a long time for what they have witnessed on the screen. It might remember you of other fantasy adventure movies, but this one does have a special place due to its combination of so many things to create that extravaganza which is there to stay.
Release date: 21st September 2019
Running time: 124 minutes
Directed by: Oleg Stepchenko
Starring: Jason Flemyng, Charles Dance, Rutger Hauer, Jackie Chan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Helen Yao, Martin Klebba, Christopher Fairbank, Igor Jijikine, Anna Churina, Yuri Kolokolnikov
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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.