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Review: Lost in the Pacific (2016)

Lost in the Pacific

蒸发太平洋

China, 2016, colour, 2.35:1, 3-D, 89 mins.

Director: Zhou Wenwubei 周文武贝 [Vincent Zhou].

Rating: 3/10.

Cheesy aeroplane disaster movie, shot in English, is B-movie pulp with international aspirations.

STORY

Rio airport, 2020. The maiden flight of Ocean Airlines’ new super-plane – the A390, based on rocket technology – sets off across the Pacific to Hong Kong with a celebrity passenger list. The development of the aeroplane has cost Ocean’s CEO Gary Gao (Wang Shengde) US$100 million and comes at a crucial time in his ailing company’s fortunes, so the flight must be successful. The celebrities on board are Hong Kong actress Lily Young (Wu Tianyu), blind Korean cellist Gim U-nam (Lu Siyu), retired US boxer Rodman (Vincent M. Ward), Middle East billionaire prince Khadsa (Tazito Garcia) whom Gary Gao hopes to interest as an investor, and superstar singer Colin (Wang Yangming), Gary Gao’s estranged son. Covering the flight is Global News Network reporter Mia Ren (Jiang Mengjie). When the plane hits an unexpected storm, and an engine appears to catch fire, it lands on a deserted airstrip on Fortune island, which is rumoured to have supernatural monsters. While captain Jason Anderson (Bobby Tonelli) and his co-captain Ruoxin (Zhang Yuqi) are inspecting the plane’s engine, they’re attacked by a pack of deadly giant cats. Two soldiers appear on a jeep, firing at the cats, and in the carnage Jason Anderson and Mia Ren’s cameraman (Zhai Shicheng) die. Ruoxin and the two soldiers manage to escape in the plane. The latter – Vincent Rigs (Kaiwi Lyman) and Nikki Lee (Liao Bi’er) – say they are the only survivors of a United Nations Biological Crisis Team which arrived two weeks earlier to deal with a mutation problem on the island. Against Gary Gao’s wishes, they commandeer the plane by force and insist it changes course to their headquarters, a UN transit airport which has supplies. Ruoxin only agrees as the aeroplane is running out of fuel. Also suspicious of the soldiers’ motives is the chef, Mike (Brandon Routh), a former counter-terrorism soldier. When passengers start dying, it turns out that one of the mutated cats is on the plane.

REVIEW

Rogue UN soldiers hijack the maiden flight of a celebrity-packed super-plane in Lost in the Pacific 蒸发太平洋, a cheesy disaster movie in the so-bad-it’s-almost-fun category. Financed out of Shanghai, entirely shot in Malaysia, converted into 3-D, and with a cast of Mainland Chinese, Chinese Americans and other nationalities speaking computer-generated dialogue mostly in English, Lost is a pulpy B-movie with international, A-movie aspirations, and is no challenge to Red Snow 极地营救 (2002) as the Mainland’s best aeroplane disaster movie. Among those whose careers have not been enhanced are Mainland actress Zhang Yuqi 张雨绮 as the plane’s co-captain in a silly futuristic uniform, Chinese American actor Wang Shengde 王盛德 [Russell Wong] as the airline’s cash-strapped, ranting boss, and US actor-model Brandon Routh (Superman Returns, 2006) as an onboard chef who turns out to be a former counter-terrorist soldier.

Apparently trying to mimic a Hollywood movie, everyone shouts a lot and is as confrontational as possible within the limits of being a cardboard cut-out. With 95% of the dialogue in American English, Zhang, not a native speaker, comes off the worst among the main players: she’s sometimes close to incomprehensible and her voice doesn’t radiate the authority her role requires. Fellow Mainlander Jiang Mengjie 蒋梦婕 fares better with her English dialogue but has a ridiculous role as a reporter who starts off as an aggressive media type and then collapses into a pale automaton. Wang is solid but one-dimensional and Routh ditto. As the cliches build up, the slapdash script becomes increasingly spacey, climaxing in a blind Korean cellist playing Bach and Beethoven as the CG felines rampage on the loose.

Lost is the second feature by Shanghai-born writer-director-producer Zhou Wenwubei 周文武贝, aka Vincent Zhou, who started in documentaries and advertising before making Last Flight 绝命航班 (2014), also a disaster movie centred on the fictional Ocean Airlines, with an international cast, dialogue in English and Mandarin, shot in Southeast Asia (Thailand, in this case), and subsequently converted into 3-D. That film grossed a weak RMB37 million in the Mainland; Lost slightly less, RMB35 million.

Model work for the super-plane is suitably cheesy, and the (South Korean) VFX for the mutated cats are so-so. Even though the film is set in 2020, the design (especially in the uniforms) is way more futuristic, in a Hollywood way, enhanced by the saturated colour photography. The film’s Chinese title means “The Steaming Pacific Ocean”.

CREDITS

Presented by Shanghai Hongliang Film Studio (CN), Yanshang Group (CN). Produced by Shanghai Hongliang Film Studio (CN).

Script: Zhou Wenwubei, Peter Cameron. Photography: Scott Winig. Editing: David Hsin. Music: Alec Puro. Production design: Ian Bailie. Art direction: Fu Wenhui. Costumes: Lebon Ang (uniforms). Sound: Poon Kok Keon, Yeo Loi Hooi, Benjamin L. Cook. Action: Ong Cheng Hoon. Visual effects: Mun Byeong-yeong, Yi Seong-mun (Venture 3D). 3-D conversion: Jim Lee (Real D Square).

Cast: Brandon Routh (Mike, chef), Zhang Yuqi (Ruoxin, co-captain), Wang Shengde [Russell Wong] (Gary Gao, Ocean Airlines CEO), Liao Bi’er [Bernice Liu] (Nikki Lee, UNBCT sergeant), Wang Yangming [Sunny Wang] (Colin, Gary Gao’s son), Jiang Mengjie (Mia Ren, Global News Network reporter), Dai Xiangyu (Xiang, co-pilot), Kaiwi Lyman (Vincent Rigs, UNBCT lieutenant), Bobby Tonelli (Jason Anderson, captain), Yu Yonglin (Monica, stewardess), Lu Siyu (Gim U-nam, cellist), Tim Parrish (Peter, Gary Gao’s assistant), Natasha Lloyd (Kelly, stewardess), Tazito Garcia (Khadsa, prince), Vincent M. Ward (Rodman, boxer), Wu Tianyu [Debbie Goh] (Lily Young, actress), Zhai Shicheng [Dominic Zhai] (Bob, news cameraman), Gary Dean (Han, doctor).

Release: China, 29 Jan 2016.