Iceman: The Time Traveler is itself a time-traveling film, originally slated for release in 2014 before being shelved indefinitely due to production problems that plagued its predecessor, Iceman.
Donnie Yen stars as Ying, a Ming dynasty general who got betrayed, exiled and eventually sent 400 years into the modern day. The entire first Iceman is condensed into a 10-minute opening segment; the entirety of The Time Traveler is about 80 minutes long, so this is a considerable portion of the runtime. From what I can tell it was mostly wirework, sketchy CGI and a lot of situational comedy about a person misunderstanding the modern world. The Time Traveler mostly lacks that, instead bringing Ying and his modern girlfriend, May (Eva Huang), through the Golden Wheel of Time back to the Ming dynasty, where Ying works to prevent his displacement from ever occurring.
Presumably The Time Traveler was delayed due to the first film’s relative box-office failure and the attendant backstage drama. This one failed in China, too, and is only seeing release in the United States via DVD / Blu-Ray combo pack on February 19. I was provided with a review copy by WellGo USA, a publishing house that makes a lot of interesting Asian cinema available stateside. I say yes to anything WellGo offers because I like to see what kinds of movies come out of China, South Korea and the like, and Indianapolis only offers scant opportunities to engage with foreign cinema not distributed by major American studios.
Watching The Time Traveler didn’t make me angry, upset or confused, which seems to be the tone a lot of reviewers have taken on Letterboxd and IMDb. I have few feelings about Yen and whether he should be starring in subpar films; I like what I’ve seen of his work previously, and think he has charisma and skill for days. For what it’s worth, Yen is still enjoyable here, bringing flow to endless pseudo-philosophical musings about time travel and whether we can truly control our own destinies by changing the past. (Spoiler: Not really.) He has a nice smile.
Yen aside, The Time Traveler really doesn’t give him or his co-stars much to do physically, as fight sequences feel like an afterthought given no room to shine. At most, we get some wirework, cut to death and done without much passion. Too much time spent on shallow interpersonal conflicts, too little time letting those conflicts sing in the language of bruises and blood. By the third act, the entire narrative structure starts to melt away into an incoherent sequence of events that feel completely arbitrary. If you’re into that sort of thing, please have at it.
There are no special features on this release.