Painted Skin: The Resurrection (2012) – By Duane L. Martin

A fox demon named Xiaowei (Zhou Xun) was frozen in solid ice for five hundred years because she broke demon law by saving the lives of two humans. Her sister, The Bird (Mini Yang), a phoenix demon, took pity on her and helped her escape from her icy prison, but now the ice follows her everywhere, trying to reclaim her. Eventually, she comes across a scarred princess named Jing (Wei Zhao), who keeps half of her face covered because of the scars she received in a bear attack years ago. Jing saves Xiaowei from demon warriors that are trying to reclaim her, and the two escape. Mistaking Jing for a man, Xiaowei is planning on devouring her heart, because demons must consume human hearts in order to stay young and beautiful, and also simply to exist in our world. When the ice comes however, she discovers that Jing’s heart is special. It’s so warm that it keeps the ice at bay. From that moment on, she became Jing’s handmaiden, for lack of a better word, and stayed with her.

Jing was deeply in love with a general who was supposed to be her protector when the bear attack happened. He eventually subdued the bear, but not until after Jing had been wounded, and he had never forgiven himself, nor allowed himself to express his love for her. Xiaowei used him in a plan to get Jing to give her her heart willingly, and in exchange, Xiaowei would become human, while Jing would become a demon, free of her scars, and could be with her love forever. The ultimate goal of demons is to find that bridge to becoming human, so they can experience human senses. Demons can’t smell flowers for example, or experience so many of the things that humans can feel and experience. Jing makes the trade willingly, but when a rival people called the Tian Lang show up with a war party to claim Jing, and make good on her father’s agreement for her to marry their prince, the newly human demon in Jing’s form is taken instead. Now Jing, the General, Xiaowei’s sister and her demon hunter friend must rescue her from their clutches, before they cut out her heart and use it to try to re-animate their dead prince, who coincidentally, Xiaowei and her sister had torn the heart out of at the beginning of the film.

This film is a sequel to the 2008 film, Painted Skin. I haven’t seen that film, but there are enough mentions of what happened previously that it doesn’t matter too much if you haven’t seen the first film. Because the events of that film happened five hundred years prior to this story, it really only serves as a background for how Xiaowei came to be imprisoned in the ice.

I’m consistently impressed with the visuals in Asian films. It seems like since Shaolin Soccer came out back in 2001, which also coincidentally co-starred the very pretty Wei Zhao, the visuals coming out of Asia have just become more and more stylized and impressive. 2004 saw another visually impressive film from Stephen Chow called Kung Fu Hustle. In 2006, we saw another huge leap forward in the absolutely amazing monster film from Korea called The Host. Then between The Host and the films of today, technology has not only charged forward by leaps and bounds, but it has also become cheaper, as have the cameras and other technologies used to create films, and the Asian film makers, most especially the ones from South Korea, China and Japan, have taken full advantage of this. Why am I mentioning all this? Because visually, this film is super artistic. Not just in the very stylized use of the CGI in its visual effects, but also in the general pallor of the film, the costume design, the set design, etc…. Virtually every aspect of this film is a feast for the eyes.

That said, the film does suffer in two areas. First, the story can feel a little convoluted at times. Especially when it comes to Xiaowei and her casting her spell on the general so that he falls in love with her. It all eventually comes together, but it can be a little confusing for a while. It’s not a huge problem, but it is one worth mentioning.

The second problem actually has a bit of a causal impact on the first, that being that the subtitles in the film flash on and off the screen too fast to make them easy to read and follow. I can’t count how many times I’d get halfway through a line and then suddenly it’d be gone, but not gone because the next line had to replace it, it was just removed too quickly. Often the next line would be more than enough seconds away to have left the previous one on the screen long enough to have read it comfortably. This is a technical issue only, and while it does make it a bit difficult to follow at times, it’s not a consistent problem. You do have to be a fast reader to catch everything at times though. If you’re not, the general meaning of everything can be gathered through context. Now I mention this as someone who is very used to watching Asian, Indian, Israeli and other foreign language films with subtitles. So I’m not sure how my response to the quick subs will be compared to someone who’s not used to watching films with subs. If you go into it warned that this can be an issue at times though so you’re paying more attention to it, you shouldn’t have too much of a problem.

I must say that I wish more focus in the film had been given to the demon hunter and Xiaowei’s sister. They developed a very cute relationship that I would have loved to have seen more of. Toward the end of the film however, they seem to have largely fallen along the wayside in favor of focusing on the main story. They were great characters and I really enjoyed watching them interact with each other. I’d love to see a third film made maybe where the demon hunter tracks her down and reunites with her. I think it would make for a wonderful story for a third film.

The film comes in at a running time of 131 minutes, and contains a "making of" featurette and the film’s trailer as special features.

Painted Skin: The Resurrection is a feast for the eyes, and tells a very intense story full of pain and sadness, but also of love and how the heart, even a demon’s heart, can change. The world it places you in is very immersive and intense. You’re presented with characters that you can feel for and sympathize with, as well as villains who are vile and just pure evil. It really is a dark Chinese fantasy brought to life, and it’s definitely worth checking out.

If you’d like to find out more about this film, you can check out its page on the Well Go USA website here, and you can pick yourself up a copy of the blu-ray or DVD from Amazon, or any of the other usual outlets.