WARNING! SPOILERS WITHIN! WARNING!
I’ve never been a particular fan of filmmaker Stephen Chow, not because I hate him, but because he doesn’t make movies that interest me. Having said that I am a big fan of only one of his films, Journey To The West (2013). I even got a chance to review the blu-ray that came out here in the U.S. My loving of that film was the main reason I decided to give his latest flick, The Mermaid, a chance, though, to be honest I had fairly good idea I wasn’t going to like it based on the trailer, but I thought I should at least give it a chance. I’ve been wrong about movies before. Unfortunately, my gut just happened to be right about this one.
After they acquired Sony had a hell of a time trying to figure out if it was something they wanted to release in theaters but ultimately decided against it and I can understand why. If you were a casual movie watcher with kids and came across this flick in, say, Wal-Mart, you could easily think this would be great for them to watch. I mean, just look at that cover art, but there a couple of things that would easily give you pause, one of them being the tagline: Half Fish. Half Human. 100% Assassin.
Then if you were to check out the back of the disc, you might happen to notice the R-rating. What?! I know. The cover and the photos on the back scream kids flick, but that tagline and that rating do not. And it really isn’t something for kids. At least kids in the U.S. Then again maybe this was never meant to be a kids flick to begin with.
I ran into this “tonal oddness” a while back when I watched an anime called, Angel Beats. It was a series and a damn good one, but one where the various genres it was delving into were shoved right up against one another in a strange way. At least strange to this westerner’s eyes. If I can remember Angel Beats is about a kid who’s killed and ends up in this purgatory that looks an awful lot like our normal world, except there’s this high school at the center of it where all the drama plays out. There’s a good stretch that is clearly comedic, genuinely funny, I mean, which had me thinking it was a comedy fantasy sort of thing, then during one of those comedic moments this girl and this boy start conversing and the next thing I know I’m in the middle of a flashback that tells how her whole family was violently home invaded and murdered.
Then the comedy returns. The change, back and forth, happened on a dime. Now the cover of the disc makes Angel Beats look like one of those girlcentric comedic actionfests that has chicks in skimpy uniforms shooting the fuck out of things. I don’t generally like that kind of anime, because it’s all eye candy with no substance. Angel Beats has that about it, but it’s also a drama, and a comedy. My point is the drama and the comedy shifts were extreme. You may be laughing one minute and then watching a tragic flashback about how one of the kids got himself dead. And in the last half of the series it becomes more of a drama. Though, you’d never know it by the cover art. For a few episodes I wasn’t sure if I wanted to dislike the series or love it. Ultimately, I ended up loving it, but I’ve never seen such spin-on-a-dime tonal shifts like it in American movies.
Chow’s Journey To The West was like that, and his The Mermaid is like it too. For the most part it’s a comedy, with romance, then in the final act it turns into a drama, a tragic drama, where in one set piece you will see a bunch of mermaids bloodily massacred, then an elder mermaid will murder all those humans who just murdered some of her clan, though she does it with a bloodless crushing wave. These aforementioned shifts in tone are perplexing but it’s not the reason I’m giving the flick a thumb’s down. I’m giving it a thumb’s down because the story didn’t do anything for me. The CGI for the mermaids is kind of cartoony, too, which was also a bit of a turn off. On the other hand the CGI for the half-man, half-octopus dude was better. As for the drama and comedy, both are played admirably, but again the characters just didn’t interest me. The comedy, some of it, is actually funny, but there was only one scene where I laughed out loud and that was when the main character went to the cops to try and tell them this girl he was with and her friends are mermaids and they try their best to not laugh at him. That was a solid bit of comedy I thought.
The Mermaid is about a business tycoon, Liu Xuan (Chao Deng), who buys this island called, The Green Gulf, and uses this underwater sonar technology to drive away sea life, especially dolphins, that threaten his full use of it. But this sonar has injured and killed a species of merpeople living in the Gulf. Unable to return home they hole up in this shipwreck and plot the execution of this tycoon. Their weapon is mermaid Shan (Jelly Lin), who is sent to a party this tycoon is having, so she can come onto him, give him her number, and when they date they’ll ambush and kill him. She poses as a human fairly well, yet walking somewhat odd because of her merfolk body type from the waist down. The tycoon clearly starts out as the bad guy, but he falls for Shan and vice-versa, which puts a crimp in their assassination plan. With our expected villain being turned, the movie’s real villain ends up being this girl he was dating and setting up a parternship with. She’s a cold bitch and has secretly been bankrolling the research of a scientist who’s been looking for mermaids for most of his life. They want the merpeople so they can harvest their DNA and this results in the final act massacre I previously described. It all ends on a happy note even though the final scene with the tycoon and Shan say otherwise.
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 2.35:1 high definition widescreen—5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio, 5.1 Thai Dolby Digital—English, English SDH, Chinese, French, Indonesian, Polish, Spanish, Thai.
Extras included . . .
- The Mermaid: Behind The Scenes (1:49)
- Invincible Music Video (1:34)
- The Making Of The Mermaid (13:25)