Saturday, February 1, 2014

In short: Legendary: Tomb of the Dragon (2013)

A dam building project somewhere in China is disturbed by attacks of a mysterious giant animal. Lawyer Doug McConnell (James Lance), working for a mysterious money source, hires cryptozoologist Travis Preston (Scott Adkins) to catch whatever the creature may be. Despite his last expedition having ended in something of a catastrophe, Travis and his partners Katie (Lydia Leonard) and Brandon (Nathan Lee) soon make their way to beautiful China.

Once there, they not only have to cope with a generally hungry and rude giant amphibian but also Harker (Dolph Lundgren), a former partner of Preston who has turned against him after what we will call the giant bear fiasco (that happened in the movie’s intro). Harker, never the sanest of men, is now clearly fully living the evil mastermind fantasy version of the Great White Hunter, which makes him just as dangerous as the giant animal he of course doesn't want to catch but to kill. One can't help but ask oneself how these people ever worked together.

I can't help but think that Eric Styles's UK/Chinese co-production made a bit of a tactical error by casting action specialists Scott Adkins and Dolph Lundgren in Legendary's lead roles, for fans of the two going in expecting an action fest will surely be sorely disappointed, while the actual audience for a (mostly) family friendly adventure movie with a giant monster might be turned off by the same expectations.

Me, I'll watch whatever people put in front of me, though, and I'm certainly not going to complain about actors broadening their horizons slightly. Particularly not since Adkins makes for a perfectly decent white-bread hero, while Lundgren seems to relish the opportunity to utter dialogue containing every Evil Great White Hunter cliché ever written (including, of course, multiple variations of the old hit "does the lion care for the fate of the lamb?"), and playing his bad guy as the king of smug self-satisfaction. It's certainly not deep stuff, but the two are fun to watch and nicely supported by a decent international supporting cast.

The rest of Legendary also isn't deep stuff yet fun enough to watch: the production makes good use of its actual Chinese locations (the glory of international co-productions strikes yet again), the action scenes are competent, and the dialogue is generally funny enough when it wants to be. The giant monster, on the other hand, is a bit of not very good CGI that emphasises the feeling that what you're watching is a slightly up-market version of a SyFy Channel movie without a bizarre explanation for the existence of its monster. That's of course fine by me, because I happen to like SyFy Channel movies, and more of them (or really, any of them) should star Scott Adkins or Dolph.

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