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White Snake by Amp Wong and Zhao Ji

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Benjamin Schwarting
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White Snake by Amp Wong and Zhao Ji

The film I chose to review was White Snake (2019), directed by Amp Wong and Zhao Ji. What caught my eye about this movie was its unique success among western audiences.

The movie experienced poor reception in China, grossing a measly $34,000 among domestic audiences, and was later marketed to the United States, France, and Canada where it brought in over $61 million at the international box office.

While Japanese anime has long had a religious following in the US, I have not seen many Chinese animated films have much success among American audience, but White Snake was even shown in select theatres around the country.

The story is intended to be a prequel to the Chinese fable “The Legend of White Snake,” and takes place in a fantasy version of the Song Dynasty. The story follows the life of a woman named “Blanca” who is a legendary snake demon. The snake demons are at war with the Emperor, who is apparently sacrificing snakes to gain dark magic that will allow him to cement his reign. A romance blossoms between Blanca and a peasant boy, and the story eventually spirals away into an all-out war with the imperial army.

While filled with many of the traditional, cheesy anime tropes (random memory loss, enemies to lovers, the evil emperor obsessed with immortality, etc…) the Chinese mythology gives it all a fairly refreshing skin change. The movie juxtaposes violence and romance, beauty with monstrosity, and is, in general, a stressful, disturbing pleasure to watch.

My single biggest critique was how poorly it was dubbed. I would have much preferred to watch the movie in its original Mandarin with subtitles.