China is one of the biggest movie markets in the world. It is second only to the United States market, and it will soon become number one if things keep going the way they are. China has also been into making its own movies and putting priority on them before movies coming from another country. Warriors of Future is one of those examples. The film, now available on Netflix, is a big and bombastic blockbuster that tries to be as big and impressive as the big blockbusters from Hollywood, but fails at being compelling or fun in any way.
Warriors of Future is an action film directed by Yuen Fai Ng, and stars Louis Koo, Ching Wan Lau, Carina Lau, Philip Keung, and Xiaoxia Cheng. The film is a post-apocalyptic science fiction story about a world that has been ravaged by natural disasters, viruses, and endless wars. It is in this world that a team of elite warriors is sent on a suicide mission that could change the world forever, but doing it is easier said than done. The film centers its conflict around the dilemma of the needs of the few and the needs of the many.
Warriors of Future is a Hong Kong film that distinguishes itself from other China productions by having more western sensibilities and a great command of visual production. It is easy to see that this movie took a lot of time to make and that the visual effects team really had a lot of work to do in this production. More than anything else in the film, the visuals are the element that comes across as the most polished one. This doesn’t mean they are the most consistent, but they really stand out among the rest of the ingredients.
Yuen Fai Ng graduates from visual effects supervisor to the director’s chair, and it is clear that the director has a lot of expertise when it comes to creating worlds and characters through the power of CGI. Fai Ng has put a lot of effort into the creation of certain visual effects-heavy sequences. Most of them look very good, but they never reach the territory of the amazing. There are several problems with these sequences, and they take you back to a time when CGI was still a very new tool and people were still learning how to use it.
Most of these visual effects-heavy sequences have a weightless feel to them. The characters move, run, roll, and jump, and they feel as if there were air itself. There is no weight, there is no impact. When dealing with characters that are covered in heavy cybernetic armor, or are basically robots themselves, this weightlessness takes you completely out of the movie. We know these entities should be heavy, but neither the animation, the sound, nor the way the characters are shot conveys any of this.
As a result, these action sequences, which are the main selling point of the movie, feel a bit disappointing. The renderings look very good most of the time, but many other factors break the illusion, and you simply know you are watching CGI characters in a CGI environment. CGI needs more than just good renders to appeal to our sense of immersion. It needs to be backed up by sound, cinematography, and the actors themselves. This takes us to our next point, the actors.
The acting is mediocre at best, which is sad to say, but maybe Fai Ng is not an actor’s director, which is fine; everyone has their own strengths. Nevertheless, the actors feel mostly on autopilot, and thanks to a script that only manages to navigate through cliché after cliché, the movie feels not only predictable but also lacking any sort of tension whatsoever. The characters and the writing are really second fiddle to the visuals, and this is why the movie fails. Visuals are truly important, but they need to be backed up by many other elements.
Films truly are a collection of many elements working together in harmony. One single element out of place can destroy the entire experience. This is the reason they are so hard to make, and finding the correct balance between all these elements becomes a challenge for filmmakers around the world. Unfortunately, Warriors of Future fails to find this balance, and what we have is a series of scenes with no weight that then finishes in a visual climax that looks good, but it feels more like watching a video game that you are not able to play.
The script needed a few more drafts, it is filled with many lines of dialogue that go nowhere and a plotline that feels absolutely paper thin. The entire third act makes absolutely no sense, as the bad guys send an army of robots that can fight as well as the main characters, and then it makes you wonder: why send these soldiers on the mission in the first place? Why not send the robots? It is just a constant reminder that the writers didn’t think things through enough, and the holes in the story are very easy to see.
Warriors of Future shows that Hong Kong, and China in general, are able to create blockbusters on the same scale as in Hollywood. However, trying to replicate the Hollywood style in their productions seems to only lead to disappointment. It is much more interesting when they use these production values to make blockbusters that speak to their own style of storytelling.