White Snake (Amp Wong/Ji Zhao, 2019) 3 out of 4 stars.
I’m not one to typically watch Far Eastern animated films. I never got into anime, and I rarely catch animated films in the United States, to be frank. However, when I learned that a Chinese animated fantasy film was opening at the Landmark theatres in Washington, DC, I knew I had to check it out.
White Snake is a fantastical tale taking place in a world with a power struggle between an Emperor and his forces, snake demons, and the ordinary humans stuck in the middle. Our story begins when a girl named Blanca wakes up in a rural village with no memory of who she is. She is told that she was found in a body of water in which she’d seemingly fallen in and rescued by a rural “snakecatcher” named Xuan. Xuan explains to Blanca the details of how he saved her, and that his village catches snakes to send to the emperor, for reasons unknown to them. Slowly, we begin to learn that both the Emperor, his forces and the snake demons are after Blanca, and she begins to remember who she is. Blanca’s presence presents danger to the village, and with the fate of the world seemingly at stake, can Blanca and Xuan save the village … and possibly the world … from two mighty opposing forces?
The animation style used in White Snake is remarkable. Light Chaser Animation, one of China’s premiere animation studios, did a wonderful job finding the balance between realism and classic animation. The characters and locations look realistic enough while retaining the charm and beauty of some older animation styles. The musical score fits in beautifully with the story, animation, and locations. Technically speaking, White Snake is a true work of art.
The world-building that takes place throughout the film is exceptional. It is a fantastical film, for sure, with many suspensions of belief necessary. However, the story is told in such a way that we, along with our main characters, find out things about this world in little pieces, not in one large information dump. This tactic works as it seems more realistic and gives us a chance to chew on one piece of information at a time.
The story remains interesting given the many components to it. It’s hard to categorize this film, given that there is so much packed into it. It is a fantasy film, mystery, love story, and action-adventure thriller all in one. The only issues I had with the film is with a few scenes that seemed too convenient and too quick. The final act is also a bit too twisty at times, but everything comes back home before the credits roll.
Overall, White Snake is a charming, intriguing, and wonderful animated adventure that I believe anyone can enjoy. I highly recommend watching the film in its native Mandarin language as I did (not the English dubbed version). It is very enlightening to see something from another culture, and hear something from another language, and to get the full experience I believe you must watch it in Mandarin (with English subtitles, of course).