I first heard rumblings about “Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame” last summer, and I would have completely forgotten all about it if not for the dedicated movie buffs toiling away in the forums at Film Smash. All I really needed to know about the feature is a) Tsui Hark was helming the project and b) Andy Lau would star as the titular character. The specifics are certainly intriguing, yes, but altogether unnecessary. As long as the Lau and Hark provide plenty of kinetic action, I’m down for whatever. Thankfully, the powers that be have unleashed a trailer for Hark’s high-concept martial arts flick, which I’ve embedded just below the film’s lengthy synopsis.
Here’s what it’s all about:
In 690AD, ancient China witnessed one of its most prosperous and dynamic era through the powerful Tang Dynasty. Reaching its peak of time, Tang boasted of the highest population and broadest borders amongst all nations. Neighboring countries bowed to China’s emperor, and European ministers travelled thousands of miles to visit this great kingdom for trade and cultural exchange, and it was also during this time, Empress Wu, the first and only female emperor to ever rule China, was preparing to officially announce her place in throne.
Our story begins at just weeks before the grand inauguration ceremony of Empress Wu is to take place. The entire country had been preparing for this day for many years, redecorating the Imperial Palace, the capital city Luoyang is retouched to the last detail, rare delicacies are shipped in from every corner of the country for the banquet feast, and foreign Ambassadors from around the world have begun to arrive to attend this great celebration. All that was to be done was the completion of the 100 meters tall Stupa that was being built and worked on day and night.
Everything was at the ready, people of the Luoyang city are holding celebrations every night to commemorate this big day to come. And just when nothing could possibly go wrong, a series of unexplainable deaths begin to occur, creating panic within the city. To make matters worse, all the victims are found to be loyal supporters and serving administrators of Empress Wu. Devastated by this, Wu is all the more anxious to find out who or what is behind these murders before it disrupts the inauguration that she had been planning for years. With no choice, Wu calls on the only person she knows who could solve the crimes —the infamous Detective Dee; the man who defied her when she first seized power of the court eight years ago, leading her to send him on exile.
Detective Dee dutifully returns to her Majesty’s service, and partnering with the gung-ho Commander Bei, and the Ghost Doctor, a specialist in black magic and disguise, they set out to unveil the mystery of the murders. As they inch closer and closer to unveiling the truth, they are confronted with further danger and bizarre events.
“Detective Dee” should arrive in Hong Kong theaters this year. To whet your whistle, check out all of the nifty promotional items positioned below.