The Myth (2005)

Not available in the U.S.

review by Scott Hamilton and Chris Holland
See also:

Armour of God

Battle Creek Brawl

The Accidental Spy

The Myth

Lava LampLava Lamp

Our rating: two LAVA® motion lamps.

"I lost a bet with Jet Li."
Jackie Chan’s new movie The Myth is both something old and something new for the aging action star. On one hand it’s pretty typical of the Chan’s newer globetrotting adventure movies like The Accidental Spy (2001), with an emphasis on getting as many as countries into the mix as possible. It even continues Chan’s tendency to make unofficial sequels to his previous hits. Just as Who Am I? (1998) was a plot idea for a fifth Police Story movie, The Myth could practically be Armor of God 3. On the other hand The Myth is the first time Jackie Chan has entered the genre of wuxia (heroic swordplay), made popular internationally in movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) and Hero (2002).

Chan plays Prof. Jack Chan (snicker), an archeologist who is plagued by dreams of another time. In the dreams he is Meng Yi, a general in the army of Qin Sau Yau, the same emperor who featured so prominently in Hero. This is decades later (probably around 225 B.C.E.), and Qin is near the end of his life. Meng Yi has been charged with escorting a princess from another kingdom to Qin’s compound, where she will become his latest consort. Along the way the princess, Ok-soo, and her retinue is attacked by a small army from her own country. (The first of many confusing political machinations in the flashback sequences.) This being a Jackie Chan movie this attack manages to turn into wild chase, and Ok-soo’s carriage goes out of control on a narrow mountain road and catches on fire, and it ends up hanging off a cliff with only Meng Yi keeping it from falling hundreds of feet into a river gorge. In this precarious position Meng Yi sword fights the opposing general, and though Meng Yi kills the other guy, he and Ok-soo fall into the gorge.

"This will eb the best Harry Potter
movie yet!"
Back in the present day Jack is visited by William (Tony Leung Ka Fai), a scientist friend of his. William wants to investigate reports of a flying swami in India. Jack agrees to go and provide archeological expertise.

In India Jack and William find the swami, who appears to be able to float above the roof of a certain ancient temple. The two Chinese adventures sneak into the temple and find something even more amazing. Inside the temple there is a Chinese sarcophagus floating in the middle of a room. When William messes with a strange rock (it looks quite a bit like a wadded-up piece of aluminum foil) set into a statue everything comes crashing down. The temple guards find Jack and William inside, and our heroes barely make it outside with an ancient Chinese painting and a sword that were in the sarcophagus.

Pursued by the temple guards across the Indian countryside William makes a clean escape, but Jack falls off a cliff into a river. Cut to Meng-Yi and Ok-soo living in a freezing cave after barely surviving the last flashback. Ok-soo keeps Meng-Yi alive by rubbing him with her breasts.

"Stick around! Ha! Get it?"
In the present Jack is fished out of the river by Samantha (controversial Indian actress Mallika Sherawat), the daughter of a local swami. From the swami Jack learns a bit more about the nature of his dreams, and a few new martial arts moves to boot. Needless to say the local authorities find Jack before too long and another series of chases ensue, including one neat sequence where Jack fights a bunch of people in a sticky rat trap factory. Jackie Chan lives in a strange world us normal mortals will never understand.

Eventually Jack and William reunite and realize that all the clues are leading them to the tomb of Qin, a real historical mystery. Until fairly recently the legends of Qin being buried in a giant tomb laid out like a model of the world were considered unlikely, both in terms of the scale of construction and the likelihood it could be kept secret for two thousand years. Then in 1978 the terracotta warriors buried near Xian were discovered. The warriors are associated with Qin’s burial and if anything are even more impressive than the stories of the tomb – yet no one knew they were there until a modern farmer hit one while sinking a well. Qin’s actual tomb has yet to be found, but no legend about how fabulous it might have been can be completely discounted now.

"Anonymous thugs. I hate these guys."
Except maybe the one in The Myth. Jack finds the long lost tomb, and it turns out to be a huge cavern with thousands of terracotta warriors and an entire palace floating in midair, held there by miraculous anti-gravity rocks. Following into the cavern is Jack is Mr. Ku, the Belloq to Jack’s Dr. Jones. And of course Mr. Ku brought a bunch of thugs, just perfect for some anti-gravity kung fu fighting.

There’s also a final flashback where we find out the fate of Meng Yi. (Spoiler - He's dead! We are talking about more than 2000 years ago.) The Myth should be interesting to longtime Jackie Chan fans because Chan has never done historical action like this, complete with sword fighting and decapitations. As a movie, however, it's probably less than the sum of its parts. The floating tomb is a half-clever retroactive explanation for all those flying swordsmen of Chinese mythology, but in practice it leads to a fight scene that's a shadow of the similar on in Armour of God 2: Operation Condor (1991). The flashback sequences are novel for Chan, but they don't hold a candle to any of the other big budget wuxia films that have been coming out of China, Hong Kong and Taiwan recently. Not even Jackie Chan can be good at everything, and a movie like this keeps him from concentrating on what he does best.

Review date: 03/13/2006

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