Donnie Yen stars in a soggy, lukewarm sequel that should have stayed frozen.
“I can tell you now there really were those who became time travellers. Because I am one of them.”
I am going to admit straight away that I don’t remember a great deal about what went down in the 2014 fish-out-of-water action comedy Iceman. I sort of remember the only two things that really stood out to me: the final fight where the three main characters duke it out with ludicrously oversized Dynasty Warriors weapons and a scene where Donnie Yen figures out how to use a toilet.
Toilet mishaps are a staple of the “people from the past wake up in the future” subgenre, and frankly that’s largely what Kate and Leopold was missing. Before writing this, I was informed that there is a moment when Leopold flushes a toilet with a look of bewilderment, but I’m not 100% sure it counts. I’m focusing on this because – as one of the two takeaways I got from the first film – it was a scene that helped illustrate Donnie Yen’s protagonist He Ying as an affable dude who might be excellent in martial arts, but still not perfect.
In the sequel, he loses a bit of that, and instead becomes more of a reactionary figure. Now, he goes after old friends Cheung (Simon Yam) and Niehu (Yu Kang) who are planning to use the Orb of whatever to travel back in time and … I dunno, side with the Japanese during the Ming era? Frankly, it doesn’t really matter. The story is both way too simple and way too all over the place to be memorable, and if I couldn’t remember the otherwise pretty straightforward nature of the first film, there’s no chance in hell I’ll remember what happens here.
All there is to know is that He Ying goes back to the Ming dynasty to stop his village from being wiped out. He brings May (Eva Huang) with him for no real reason, and stuff happens right up until he’s fighting a Japanese general on top of a train in the middle of a time tunnel. It’s all pretty bananas, but not in a completely out-there way. Iceman: The Time Traveller wants to have crazy ideas and stupid awesome moments, but like a lot of time travel movies, gets too sucked up its own arse to follow its own logic. Like if all this happened before everyone was frozen, and Sao is around – then where the hell are the past versions of other characters? It’s these things that make Iceman: The Time Traveller such a frustrating mess at times.
What’s strange is that Iceman: The Time Traveller is a bafflingly short movie that contains over ten minutes of recap, leaving a very, very lean 75 minutes to tell an entire action adventure film. And one involving time travel at that. So what we’ve got is a movie that really could have used more of everything: more consequences of time travel, more wuxia action, higher stakes and maybe even more mishaps with the machine. The first time they use the machine, He Ying and May end up on a train in Manchuria, during the 20s. It’s a cool moment, but leaves you wanting more of this. Why didn’t they travel back to the Stone Age for a minute, and then the future? One time period is so weird and pointless. There’s just a loose connection to Japanese occupation, and that’s it.
If you liked Iceman, then you might like this film. If you hated Iceman you’ll definitely not. It offers some new ideas, which a good sequel should, but doesn’t really do anything with them. It raises the stakes, but makes it so that they ultimately don’t matter. When I saw this on Netflix, I honestly didn’t think it was a real film – and I’d seen the first one. To be frank Iceman, for all its flaws, was a fun, goofy romp with some slick action. Here, we have two fight scenes and neither of them are particularly good. The weapons aren’t even that big.
Verdict: Iceman: The Time Traveller wants so hard to be smarter than it is, and collapses under its own shockingly light weight.
Overall entertainment: 5-ish/10
Sex: Really could have used some/10
Deaths: Like, so many.
Ming era transport: Snowboards, apparently
What’s for dinner: Rabbit, probably?
Love rivalries: Never mattered
Sao: It’s always nice to see Wang Baoqiang play a goofy, upbeat character
Iceman: The Time Traveller (2018)
Also known as: Bing feng: Yong heng zhi men
Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese
Director: Raymond Yip
Writers: Fung Lam, Mark Wu
Donnie Yen – He Ying
Wang Baoqiang – Sao
Eva Huang – May
Simon Yam – Cheung
Yu Kang – Niehu
Lam Suet – Tang
Yasuaki Kurata – Japanese General
Jiang Shuying – Yu Niang
Kang Yu – San Ko