'Iron Mask' - Movie Review

I'd really love to know if anyone involved in this production took it seriously. This is Chinese-Russian co-production starring Jackie Chan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and a bunch of Chinese and Russian actors you've never heard of - in a spectacularly ludicrous plot with never-ending CGI (it's not just the fantasy animals that are CG: most of the sets are too). At least three languages are spoken - English, Chinese, and Russian - and everyone is dubbed into English. Including many of the actors who were speaking English, whose accents apparently weren't satisfactory.

The film's original title was "Viy 2: Journey to China" as it's a sequel to an earlier film. It was marketed in North America as "Iron Mask," but on Netflix it shows up under some long and ridiculous title ("The Mystery of the Dragon Seal" is half of it) ... but the title card says "Iron Mask" when you watch it - as a librarian, I object on the grounds of discoverability. Not that the people who can't find it because the title's wrong are missing much. The movie also has the longest set of introductory company names I've ever seen: it ran to 2.5 minutes before the movie actually started.

Let's talk about a plot. A long voice-over describes a magic dragon who makes tea possible, and control of the magic dragon being taken over by evil witches. Two of the good witches are imprisoned on opposite sides of the planet: Chan is imprisoned in the Tower in London along with a guy in an iron mask who has become his martial arts student. And the prison is run by Schwarzenegger, who gets his exercise by fighting prisoners. But no, we're not done with the setup: Jason Flemyng is a scientific genius cartographer exploring the world after being forced to separate from the love of his life (Anna Churina). Flemyng is thrown in prison in Russia where he meets a young man (Helen Yao, another long story). Everybody ends up in China and has tea after lots of fireworks.

In some ways the sheer absurdity of ... well, everything about the movie ... is quite entertaining. The Russian and English elements make this stranger than your usual Chinese CG fantasy film (which is good, as those are getting old). On the other hand, the acting ranges from bad to awful, the CG is mediocre (not terrible, but quite obvious), and the story is unutterably silly. For the people who wanted to see Chan and Schwarzenegger fight it out ... you get that, but they were 64 and 70 respectively at the time - it's all special effects, just like everything else in the movie.