Movie Review: Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon

By William Kustiono

The Far East ‘Sherlock Holmes’ has come back with a new action-packed story that is sure to grasp the audience. Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon directed by Tsui Hark is a prequel of Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame. As fire was the central motif of Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame, water is the central motif of Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon.

Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon is more comical compared to its sequel. Andy Lau starred as Di Renjie in Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame and acted serious in solving the mysteries. In this prequel, Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon, Taiwanese-Canadian Actor Mark Chao played the role of detective Di Renjie for a more comical character.

The story follows Detective Dee’s early life in Luo Yang after he receives a letter of recommendation to serve in the Dalisi magistrate. The story is set in 665 A.D., during the joint reign of Empress Wu Zetian (Carina Lau) and Emperor Gaozong (Sheng Chien). The country is at war with the Fuyu Kingdom and during one of their naval engagements; a sea monster strike their ships, destroying most of them, and leaving no survivors. Rumor has it that the Sea Dragon was provoked and attacked the ships. Yuichi Zhenjin (Feng Shaofeng), head of the Dalisi, investigates and organizes tasks of safeguarding law and order. At the same time, Di Renjie moves to Luo Yang to work in Dalisi magistrate. Yuichi and Di Renjie did not get along very well. When Di Renjie senses a potential kidnap of the most beautiful capital courtesan Yin Ruiji (Angelababy), he rushes to her rescue, only to be beaten to it by a green scaly monster that looks like a Kappa creature that disappears into a pond.

Yuichi accuses Di Renjie for perpetrating a kidnap on the capital’s most beautiful courtesan and sentences him to prison. Di Renjie befriends a prison doctor, Shatuo Zhong (Lin Gengxin), and together they must escape prison, solve the case, and stop the Sea Dragon.

The movie is made using high-end CGI movie effect for fighting scenes. Stunning deductions and puzzle-solving riddles by Detective Dee keep the film mysterious and the audience thinking. One of the CGI effects that were done beautifully is the scene where the Sea Dragon destroys the Tang naval army, a similar feel to the “Release the Kraken!” scene from Clash of the Titans. Imagine the ‘Kaiju’ from the Pacific Rim and combine it with Jack Sparrow and the Kraken’s battle scene, it is a scene you will love. The use of high-end CGI for the fighting scenes fully entertains the audience. Although there are several scenes that defy the laws of physics, you can’t help but ignore them and just enjoy the film.

For the die-hard Chinese Kung Fu movie lovers, this movie does utilize a great fighting choreography (mostly CGI) and has a fair amount of comedy sprinkled for the audience. If there is a sequel for this movie bridging the ‘Phantom Flame’ and the ‘Sea Dragon’, hopefully it will answer questions and explains everything that happened before the ‘Phantom Flame’.

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