Sunday, September 28, 2014

WTF Asia?!?: Wicked City (1993)

Okay, this is an odd one just to even explain!  Today's film is Wicked City aka The Wicked City- the 1992/3 Live-Action Version of the Anime Film (which itself is based on a Book).  Confused yet?  Well, there's more.  The film was Produced ostensibly in Japan (where the Story is set), but it was filmed in Cantonese (which the Cast is) and Produced by Tsui Hark (who is Vietnamese).  I'm not sure what Country to praise/blame for this one, hence the more vague Preface I gave the Review.  The Story is initially the same- two groups try to exist in a City, but violence ensues-, but there are many changes.  The crux of the Story- our hero trying to merge the two groups through a treaty- is gone and replaced with other things.  Now, I should note that I have NOT read the Book, so I have no other idea whether the Anime changed things (a la Oldboy) or if this new Version is just making shit up (a la 1984's Children of the Corn).  All I can speak to is what I know, so feel free to leave me an angry 'You don't know anything!' message in the Comments- I can take it!  There are some obvious changes that had to occur going from Anime (where blood and boobs are prevalent) to this film (where Nudity is apparently a no-no).  Is it better or worse?  To find out, read on...
Instead of meeting up with his girlfriend, our hero is picking up a Prostitute.  As a bonus, her name allows for a cheap plug for fancy Water...
She still turns into a Spider-monster-thing, but it is before they have sex.  In addition, he knows in advance of her form and tries to kill her.

Unlike the Anime, he does, but only with the help of his...male partner.  Okay.
We get what is ostensibly a Plot Device in the form of Demon/Monster Blood used as an energy drink.  Sorry, Frostbitten and Lost Boys: The Thirst, you got beat to it apparently!

Of course, this barely matters in the Story, so...okay.
The big change: his Partner is a guy who is half-human/half-monster.  So is this a Sequel?
Meanwhile, our hero is involved in an on-again/off-again affair with this lady monster (who is the daughter of a monster mob boss.  It's off-again when the film starts and it makes things awkward.
I could fill up half a review with shots of the weird and crazy Effects of the monsters' powers.  Instead, here's a summary of some of the weirder ones, including day-glo cords, laser claws, 'clock projection' and body merging.
We do get an interesting version of the 'display the monster lady in captivity' bit from the Anime, only with no Nudity.

Don't get me wrong- I don't *want* Nudity, but it is weird to see it absent contrasted to the Anime.
The climax involves the evil son (who looks like Wishmaster), the half-human/half-monster fighting for his identity and the dad fighting to restore the delicate balance.
Instead of ending on vague hope, this one ends darkly with the dad dying (since his power is used up) and our heroine crying.  Weird.  The End.
This one was certainly weird in its own way.  The Story goes through many changes (which, again, could be more in line with the Book) and it feels different.  It is a good thing to me, since I didn't just feel like I was watching the same thing again.  The trade-off is that I kind of liked the overall Story in the Anime a bit better.  As I said in that Review, the film is basically Scene-Fight-Scene, but I still liked it.  This one gets a bit murky with monster blood as a drug, the mobster son trying to take over and about six other random sub-plots.  It is not a bad Story, but it is played a bit melodramatically for my taste.  That is a cultural thing, I know.  Not to overly-generalize, but Chinese Films tend to be a bit more melodramatic and can occasionally be a bit over-the-top that way.  I don't mind- it's just pretty true.  It is kind of like comparing an English version of something to an Indian version of something- there are just going to be more songs in the latter!  I will say that the Effects are better than I expected, even if some notable cheats have to be used.  There is plenty of creativity in the designs and they are used in pretty neat ways.  So here's the big question: which is better?  That's a tough one.  If you want a more visceral and stream-lined version, go with the Anime.  If you like a more Soap Opera-style Story and less gore, go with the Live-Action one.  There's not a bad one and a good one- just two very different versions.  With so much crazy (you can't even imagine what I didn't use here), I can't decide on my Stinger.  So, I'm going with a combination of awkward imagery (8 years later) and the randomness of a Lounge Singer performing 'The Way It Is' (in English) in a Hong Kong Bar...
Next up, I stay in familiar territory with a multi-part look at two '90s Toho Trilogies.  First up, another look at how you can make a film about a flying turtle work in a serious film.  Stay tuned...

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