In spite of some lukewarm reviews, and never having been shown in cinemas in the west (it went straight to DVD) The Myth remains one of the most enchanting, exhilarating and visually sumptuous of Jackie Chan movies. It is pure fantasy from beginning to end, and that is the joy of it – in fantasy anything can happen anywhere. As long as it sweeps you along you will believe.
Jackie Chan plays two roles – one is Qin Dynasty General Meng-Yi, who falls in love with the Emperor’s Korean concubine, Ok-Soo, and she with him. In the present, Meng-Yi has been reincarnated as Jack, an archaeologist bristling with ethics. Jack has been dreaming of the beautiful Princess Ok-Soo, who looks as if she is made of porcelain, and his past life as the General. The arrival of an old friend, William, sees him haring off on another adventure to find the answer to William’s research in weightlessness.
Like other armchair archaeology movies, this one roves over incredible landscapes, from Hong Kong Harbour to Dassar in India, to a floating mausoleum built by the long dead Emperor husband of Ok-Soo. The sequences in India are a real joy, full of color and atmosphere, made all the lovelier by Bollywood star Malika Sherawat, as Samantha, who proves more than a match for Jackie in a riotously funny scene in a rat glue factory.
The two story arcs intertwine as Jack remembers more of his distant past. The general has chosen honor over love, to the despair of his Princess, who has chosen to live only for him. But when he discovers that she is to be killed and entombed with the dying Emperor, Men-Yi makes one last brave stand to save her life. In the present, Jack has found the location of the mythical mausoleum and comes face to face with the woman of his dreams.
Director Stanley Tong is a master of spectacle. As the Qin armies and the rebels mass against each other for the final battle, the might of it catches the breath. Here you can even see real warrior horses, as Meng-Yi’s Black Wind kicks the general’s enemies out of the way. There is so much to see in Tong’s sumptuously mounted set pieces that it’s impossible to take it in all at once. Watching it again, there is much that was missed the first time round.
Why did so many critics give it the thumbs down, while others found it enormously entertaining? Those who didn’t love it at first viewing claimed it was messy and ‘unbelievable’. But I measure successful fantasy by its power to make you believe.
Do you believe that one man can stand alone, and make a mountain of his enemies? Do you believe that he can be reborn as an archaeologist, to protect the past, and find his lost princess? Do you believe that Jack can return to India and find peace with the lovely Samantha?
I believe it – that’s the magic of The Myth.