Review by Sean Boelman
White Snake, directed by Jiakang Wang and Ji Zhao, is a new Chinese animated film rooted in one of the most well-known legends of Chinese folklore. Although the story could have used a bit more polish, the film’s roots in tradition and gorgeous animation make it worthy of a watch nonetheless.
The film tells the story of a woman experiencing amnesia as she tries to rediscover her identity and her past with the help of a snake catcher. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this film is that the narrative is surprisingly complex for a film aimed at children. There are quite a few more moving parts in the story than is typical.
However, even though this makes the film more involved than the usual children’s animated film, it also creates significant problems with pacing. Granted, the film has an undeniable energy about it, and that is what keeps the film entertaining, but it does become overwhelming at times. Younger audiences may have trouble keeping up with all of the different storylines and characters.
Additionally, since the story is so chaotic, it is difficult to feel truly invested in the characters and their individual arcs. There are one or two characters whose stories are very compelling, but more often than not, viewers will be underwhelmed by the characters, and as a result, the film doesn’t resonate particularly well on an emotional level.
The voice acting in the film is also relatively lackluster. As is the case with many foreign animated films, the voice actors are extremely over-the-top. With animated films, the actors do not have the benefit of facial expressions to convey emotion (that responsibility lies with the animators), so it is much harder for them to achieve subtlety. The cast fails at doing this.
That said, the film’s biggest strength is incorporating elements of Chinese mythology in an interesting way. While there isn’t a ton of depth to the film’s exploration of these ideas, the filmmakers introduce them in a way that will encourage younger viewers to take a deeper look into the foundations of the story.
The animation from Light Chaser Animation is also very strong. The visual style of the film is very unique, each frame from the film feeling like a work of art in its own right. Even when the story isn’t as compelling as one would hope, the awe-inspiring look of the film is sure to keep viewers’ eyes locked on the screen completely.
The script for White Snake could have used a bit more work, but its foundations in folklore are extremely compelling, and the animation is quite intriguing. It is certainly one of the year’s most unique animated films.
White Snake is now playing in theaters.