The first Iceman (2014) was one of Donnie Yen’s lesser star vehicles, but still made for an enjoyable fantasy adventure with a number of well-done action scenes choreographed by Yen himself.
Based on Clarence Fok’s classic The Iceman Cometh (1989), the film starred Yen as an imperial guard who is betrayed by his friends and sentenced to death. Before his friends can carry out the task they are all frozen, awakening 400 years later in the modern world to carry on where they left off.
Running at a swift eighty seven minutes, ten of which are used to recap on the first film, Iceman: The Time Traveler picks up exactly where the first film left off, with Yen’s hero being double crossed once again before time traveling back to his own time to try and set things right.
With the first film ending on a cliff-hanger, the original plan was for Iceman: The Time Traveler to follow only a few months later. Clearly there were a number of production issues as it has taken four years for the sequel to be released, being quietly put out with little publicity at the tail end of 2018.
Due to the first film going considerably over budget, it would seem the producers were trying to recoup some of the costs they lost by spending as little money as possible, but in doing so have made one of the worst Donnie Yen movies since Iron Monkey 2 (1995).
The first film’s director, Law Wing Cheong, has been replaced by seasoned director Raymond Yip Wai-Man, director of such Hong Kong classics as Portland Street Blues (1998) and Those Were the Days (2000). He also co-directed the epic The Warlords (2007) alongside Peter Chan and the underrated Bruce Lee, My Brother (2010).
It is understandable why the producers would go to a more established director like Yip to try and salvage the franchise. What is not understandable is how Yip seems to have lost any of the skill he had shown in the past, with most scenes being presented in a hap-hazard manner, being increasingly incoherent and poorly shot.
Famed screenwriter Manfred Wong, who has worked with director Raymond Yip Wai-Man on a number of occasions, was another new addition by the producers to try and improve on the first film.
Wong, who is most famous for the Young and Dangerous series, has proven countless times to be a skilled writer. Sadly this is not one of those occasions, with this being the poorest film he has written since For Bad Boys Only (2000).
As a Donnie Yen fan, it is disappointing to see him in such a poor quality film. Yen still does his best with the material he is given, but he is not given much of an opportunity to do what he does best. With the film only having three main fight scenes, one of which does not even feature Yen. Only during the lengthy finale where he takes on martial arts legend Yasuaki Kurata, does Yen get a chance to show off his skills.
Interestingly, it has been reported that Yen is taking the producers of Iceman: The Time Traveler to court over statements they have made about him being the cause of the films failure. This story is actually more exciting than the completed film.
Yen is not the only actor that is short changed, with the majority of the cast being let down by the poor production. Eva Huang seems to only be included because she was in the first film. The same is true of Wang Bao-Qiang, who was one of the better elements of the first film. Here his character seems like an afterthought.
Simon Yam is always entertaining and could do this type of role in his sleep. Considering he is the film’s main villain, the film makers make the poor decision of having Yen face off against a secondary character during the finale instead of Yam. Of course Yam is not a martial artist, but I am sure they could have faked it. After two films of build-up it is disappointing to see the hero and villain not squaring off.
Normally with films like this, the fight scenes can be a saving factor. Unfortunately this is not the case here. The action in the first film was choreographed by Yen himself, and although not his finest work was still well done.
Replacement fight choreographer Yan Hua is one of Yen’s regular collaborators, previously assisting on the likes of SPL (2005), Flash Point (2007) and Wu Xia (2011). Sadly the action shown here comes nowhere close to those classics, with only the previously mentioned fight between Yen and Kurata being a highlight, and even then this is let down by the inclusion of some extremely poor CGI.
Lastly, it would also appear that the film makers forgot to film an ending. As when the screen initially went black I thought it was a scene transition, only to have the credits begin to roll. Considering the audience has followed these characters for the last two films, a clear resolution would have been nice.
All in all, Iceman: The Time Traveler is one for die hard Donnie Yen fans only, and even then I would urge caution.
Written by Guest Reviewer: Darren Murray (Facebook Profile)