Painted Skin: Resurrection 畫皮II is a martial arts fantasy film with a romantic and supernatural storyline loosely inspired by the story of the same name by Pu Songling. It is a sequel to the 2008 film, Painted Skin.
This is one of my favorite movies in recent years, and while I like the first one, Resurrection is a kind of sequel that exceeds the original. Both are good films, but Painted Skin: Resurrection is, for me, more entertaining.
Plot Summary: Set five hundred years after the events of the first film, a fox demon (Zhou Xun) is released from her icy prison and ventures into the world to become human. To survive, she must consume human hearts, to transform from a fox demon into a mortal, she must be given a human heart willingly.
The fox demon has a chance encounter with Princess Jing (Vicki Zhao Wei) and enters into her service after discovering that the princess' heart radiates more heat than a normal person's. This is convenient for the fox demon because her icy prison hounds her and occasionally engulfs her body. Being near the princess wards off this threat and sparks a scheme to trick Princess Jing into exchanging skins.
Princess Jing isn't a typical princess. She is ferocious with a blade and half her face is covered in a golden mask to hide scars left by a giant bear that attacked her when she was young. She is in love with General Huo (Chen Kun), but believes her feelings are unreciprocated. The truth of course is more complicated as the general is torn by a sense of duty and desire. But this is enough for the fox demon to work her magic and use it to tempt Princess Jing to sacrifice her heart for love.
All this occurs against the backdrop of a looming threat from the neighboring state of Tianlang who bring their army to the gates of Jing's White City and try to force her into a marriage with their prince.
But there are lots of other little things going on as the drama unfolds. The fox demon is sworn sisters with a bird demon (Yang Mi), who befriends a local demon hunter (Feng Shaofeng) who is hot on the trails of the fox demon.
Their relationship becomes romantic but lighter and more naive than the romance between Princess Jing and General Huo (though in many ways it is equally tragic). The bird demon doesn't understand humanity as well as her sister, the fox demon, and mistakes the physical pain she experiences when the demon hunter's blood burns her skin (it is lethal to demons) for the pain of true love.
The chemistry between the bird demon and demon hunter provides both comic relief and important background information. It works and it is touches like this that really flesh out the film in my opinion.
As a martial Princess, Zhao Wei is very believable and after playing Mulan, this role feels like a nice fit.
Zhou Xun as the fox demon delivers, especially at key moments. There is a great scene where she lectures her bird demon sister that she can't possibly understand the depths of human love that is quite impactful.
Chen Kun plays General Huo with a quiet aloofness and is fine, but I didn't find him as interesting as Feng Shaofeng's demon hunter or Yang Mi's bird demon.
Pretty Good (4/5): Painted Skin: Resurrection works because it brings so many different layers and genre elements to the table. There is something for everyone, and it is beautifully shot. the colors, the music, the way images flow across the screen create an enchanting blend. It is often when the action rests that it has the strongest impact and creates striking moments for the view. Ultimately this was a very entertaining movie.
Here is my podcast review of Painted Skin: The Resurrection