Iron Mask could be used as a weapon – it basically broke me from within.
From the start, I was vulnerable. The trailer had promised a rollicking action-adventure co-starring Jackie Chan and Arnold Schwarzenegger with mystical qualities. Beyond cheesy, sure, but Iron Mask looked like a lot of fun. After two baffling minutes of logos from studios and co-financiers which plays like a list of people to condemn, Iron Mask drops a mountain of backstory for the viewers to sink into; including the legend behind a tea made from dragon eyelashes, the greed for the tea that led to an epic battle, and how it was the crux for the imprisonment of a character named Master (Chan). In prison, we’re introduced to more characters including the prison’s warden James Hook (Schwarzenegger, in a Razzie nominated role), Master’s cellmates which includes Peter (Yuri Kolokolnikov) who is wearing the titular headpiece, and cartographer Jonathan Green (Jason Flemyng) and Lord Dudley (Charles Dance) who were in the previous movie.
“The previous movie?” you ask. Well, you see, Iron Mask is the sequel to 2014’s Viy (Iron Mask was titled Viy 2: Journey to China in international markets). For North America, Iron Mask has been pitched as a standalone project. However, no effort has been made to give the movie its own legs to stand on. Except for maybe the English dubbing, which is embarrassingly out of sync and reminiscent of the on-purpose kung fu spoof Kung Pow! Enter the Fist. The dubbing for international stars and the ADR issues for the American actors are too distracting to ignore.
The movie spreads itself so thin over the course of two hours. The characters barely qualify as stereotypes, and the screenplay (written by Dmitri Palees, Alexey Petrukhin, and director Oleg Stepchenko) constantly shifts its focus between characters and plot points. To fulfil a juggling narrative, Iron Mask needed a primary drive. Without one it gives the impression that several different movies are happening all at once. It’s terribly confusing, tonally all over the map, and truly incoherent.
The main takeaway from Iron Mask is how expensive it is. Once the viewer is lost within the convoluted script, the filmmakers pile on incomprehensible fight choreography, made worse by awkward edits, as well as a slew of rough-looking CGI animation. Despite Iron Mask being a genre-bending fantasy, the mystical elements never mesh well with the story. These animated scenes are the only standalone qualities of Iron Mask in the sense that these sequences look so out of place, they appear to be their own short films.
Iron Mask numbs the viewer, knocks them around, and concludes with a rude awakening that I’m still recovering from. I may never understand why this film was made the way it was. I just know it wasn’t fun at all.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie