Left abandoned and bitter after the events that lead to the death of her lover, the white haired witch forms an all-female cult whose aim is to bring down the eight martial arts clans upon whom she has sworn vengeance. As battle follows bloody battle, her cult becomes the focus of another's wrath - coming under attack from a man whose bride they kidnapped. Meanwhile Yi-Hang sits atop a snow covered mountain, awaiting bloom of the mystical flower that holds the power to restore the witch to her former self.
Being a sequel to one of my favourite Hong Kong films of all time was never going to be an easy task. The bar had been set way too high for part 2 to realistically come close to meeting requirements in my mind for a Bride With White Hair film. As is the case with all brilliants films, no sequel is better than an average or crap sequel. Unfortunately that is a fan's view, not a business view and it is probably on that premise that this sequel was made. Why studios feel they always have to ruin a good story by adding to it, I don't know.
One thing is for sure with The Bride With White Hair 2, prejudices and expectations aside, it is not a patch on its predecessor. The visual style is largely the same as is the choice of colour, but for me that is where the similarities end. Where the first had a story of pure love trying to overcome all obstacles, sumptuous visuals making amazing use of the colours, characters that you really cared for and skilfully created action scenes, the second has another love story but with characters you don't really care for at all, the colours are just there to keep with continuity and don't add to otherwise standard visuals and the action is decent, not great but a little too similar from one scene to the next. There is no one in the film that has the charisma of Leslie Cheung, and there is no real chemistry between the lovers in this instalment unlike before. The characters are too one dimensional throughout and that very surprisingly goes for Brigitte Lin's Bride as well.
The first film showed many sides to her character - the vulnerable lover, the innocent child, the ruthless killer - all of which painted a detailed picture of this complex woman. There is no such depth on display this time, as until the end of the film she is simply a cold-blooded, mindless killer. All the beauty and complexity of the character has been removed from the film, and we're left with the Bride killing men left, right and centre, screaming vengeance all the time and staring menacingly.
Not everything is a negative you'll be pleased to know. The Bride's cult of brainwashed men hating killers look particularly cultish and cool, adding a unique visual style to the bad girls of the film. The action, while seemingly repetitive, is quite entertaining in places. The remnants of the Eight Clans join together to fight the witch and we see various different characters and fighting styles being portrayed, which gives the only variety in the action, but is it more than welcome variety. Too much of the time in the action scenes consists of the Bride using either her apparent telekinetic powers to mystically throw people around the rooms, or her using her hair to stab and entangle people. Yeah, being able to use your hair as a weapon like that is kind of cool, but it doesn't make for a great visual spectacle.
The film's most wasted part is its use of Leslie Cheung. He was one of the best things about the first film, so to have him relegated to nothing more than a cameo performance is a tragedy. The story could have been altered somehow to allow him to have more screen time, although I'd be pretty sure it is more likely that Cheung didn't want to be in the whole film hence the reason for his short screen time.
The magic and wonder from the first film have not been recreated in The Bride With White Hair 2 and that makes me wish this entire film had not been created. It is nothing better than average on any level, but when compared to the original it is an utter travesty, and a completely unnecessary addition. In one of the extras I read that Ronny Yu was an uncredited additional director along side David Wu. I wonder if that is because he realised that this is not really a worthy successor to his original film so did not want it on his directing filmography?
Audio & Subtitles
Cantonese stereo is the only option (other than an English dub) here. While everything is perfectly legible, there is something about the whole soundtrack that doesn't seem right. Everything kind of seems too close. It is like the whole audio track was recorded in a very small room giving each sound a slight magnifying echo, and also making the quieter noises and whispers appear almost as loud as the speaking and shouting. The whole balance was not right.
The subtitles were pretty good on the whole. In honesty I can't remember much, if any, in the way of spelling and grammar errors. Writing on screen was not subtitled though, which is a tad annoying.
The film is very dark and uses highly contrasting colours in many scenes and unfortunately this brings out a flaw in the Tartan film transfer. There is a little evidence of colour bleeding in some scenes, which is a little distracting and decreases the apparent detail on screen. The colours also look a little faded on a number of instances. With this film the colours should be bright and bold, like they are on many occasions, but at other times the same life to the colours is just not evident. Fortunately there is little in the way of speckles or noise to the transfer.
DVD & Extras
Not much to choose from in the way of extras. There are Star and Director Filmographies, an Eastern Cinema Trailer Reel and Jeremy Clarke Film Notes, which is basically a review of the film by Jeremy Clarke. Some very interesting points are made in it and it is worth a read, but it is hardly scintillating!
The first film was amazing, this second one was average. So few sequels can live up to the standards of the original and The Bride With White Hair 2 is no exception.