Review: ICEMAN: THE TIME TRAVELLER
A rainy Sunday afternoon-style film, which is predictable and lightly comedic –– China’s answer to Captain America. Iceman is a film about four friends who travel back and forth in time, all with different ideas of how the future should look. A lot happens in those 80 minutes. It's like a disorganized rugby match with three teams and only one goal. Needless to say: I was confused for most of it.
Similar in style to Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger,Hidden Dragon (2001) with crazy fights taking place not only on the ground but also in the air, this film was a VFX masterpiece. The technical aspects of this film are insane. The time machine itself was so satisfying to watch as the golden orb lit up and moved. The lingo was almost laughable; it was the only element of production design I expected more of; it was so important yet nothing like the the golden orb.
When back in the Ming Dynasty, May takes out her phone to look at the selfie of her and He Ying that they took in modern day China –– and it felt weird. My brain was screaming “This is wrong! This is wrong!” like it did at the end of the last episode of BBC’s Merlin, when the truck goes past and he’s suddenly not in Camelot anymore. It’s just not right.
But there was something quite interesting about how tech from the future saved her, after the film tries to tell us (like every good time traveling film) that time travel is bad. Imagine being one of the people who saw her phone as they were dying, the confusion would have at least distracted them.
He Ying is clearly a very desirable character. When I first saw Jade I thought she was his sister but apparently I was wrong. It was a bit weird that Jade and May became friends, but it was a pretty small village so it was bound to happen. I thought Jade would have been angry, but she was a fairly meek character. I wanted her and May to fight, I wanted her to stake her claim on He Ying, she looked after his mother all the time he was away. She deserved more than for him to turn up with another woman.
I was frustrated because this film pretty much ran on honour, ego and high levels of testosterone. I wanted some strong female leads to cut up the action. May can fight but her panic whilst beating up her enemies wasn’t on a par with the level the men fought at. As an audience member, watching her arms flail about as she attacked was funny to watch, but I didn’t feel I could take her seriously as a character.
I’m not entirely sure if it was supposed to be comedic, but it definitely was in some places. One of my favorite moments had to be in the morgue, when sliding the body out of the drawer the line: “I just checked, he still has a pulse”. When the Eunich orders the army to seize Yuanlong, they all file in as if all 30 of them were standing directly outside the door. It’s supposed to be a power thing but it is more comical, especially as this is the second time it happens in the film.
I had some issues with the acting in places, I felt more emotion was needed at times but maybe being Generals in the army meant they were not supposed to show emotion –– I don’t know, but it was a bit too uneven to understand if it was intentional. Some of the translations where a bit confusing as well. But, similar to Isle of Dogs (Anderson, 2018) you kind of just got the gist of what was happening.
As much as I had issues with this film, I liked the relationships between the characters as well as the production design. It is clear that most of the budget went on production design and the VFX department.