Review: Double World
Double World is a 2020 Chinese action adventure fantasy that features neither doubles nor worlds. The film is an adaptation of a popular MMORPG called Zhengtu, which apparently translates to ‘way to conquer’, which is......actually way better and more accurate a descriptor? Whatever, we'll be generous and assume there was just something lost in translation.
Double World had to forgo a theatrical release due to Covid19, so it's now up on Netflix as it's the 20th's anniversary of Zhengtu and they gotta recoup where they can this year considering the film's $43 million budget.
Spoilers from here on.
The basic set-up is that there's the usual warring kingdoms and the usual emperor who has the usual evil advisor that he doesn't realize is evil who has the usual evil plot to have a grand tournament and blah blah blah.
Look at my entire house.
The plot is as thin as the paper it was written on. You are here for action and elaborate death traps in the tournament coliseum, which actually starts out really nice. There's a really cool part of the tournament that has a chain pit with spikes and death balls and everything. I'm a fan of elaborate death traps, ok?
9/10, as death traps go, I would watch that death trap again.
Alas, it takes us a little while to get there. See there's a bunch of clans, and they all have to send warriors to the tournament or else (because of reasons, ok?). So we follow three young warriors from one clan, two who get back stories so we can immediately know that the third dude is 'cool death cannon fodder'. And wouldn't you know it, the red shirt gets taken out by giant scorpions immediately, which oddly makes this the 2nd time I saw giant scorpions this week as I felt like I had to punish myself with the 2010 Clash of the Titans.
Anywho, that now leaves us with two dudes (Dong Yilong, who's searching for the truth about his father, and Chu Hun, an embittered soldier with a vendetta) and you need three to compete. Enter the infinitely more likable character, pickpocket Jinggang and her huge ass anime sword.
We also get introduced to the most interesting character who is a horribly traumatized slave warrior played by Jiang Luxia. She easily steals most of the scenes she's in and has a generally more interesting arc than anyone else.
Oh, also the main bad guy has a giant bear dog. For some reason? The bear dog comes into play a lot but is never explained, which I think was meant to be for the sake of world building, like hey look, we got these bear dogs and it's totally normal. Still, name the damn thing if that's what you're going for.
Anywho, pickpocket girl Jinggang joins the heroes and the tournament begins. This is where the movie shines, and you're like ok, there's like 10 clans, half will die here and then......oh, only 3 clans survive and move to the next phase? That's cutting the fat quick, but ok. What's the next cool deathtrap in the elaborate coliseum that took the evil villain 10 years to build?
Oh, the next phase is they have to leave the tournament and retrieve a dragon egg? .......Kay. At least we get a dragon?
Eh, it's ok as far as dragons go. Ok, so this probably means we just lose one of the three teams, and then it's a final battle in the death trap coliseum, yeah? Let's do it!
Oh, so our three heroes are the only survivors of the dragon phase?.....Kay. Ohhh, the evil advisor is making them fight to the death among the three heroes. Alright alright alright, that's something, that's something.
Oh, he just ambushes them in the forest during their exposition filled break, kills one of the ladies, and then puts the soldier hero on trial to distract the emperor.........WHY DID YOU BUILD THE ELABORATE DEATH TRAP COLISEUM? DID YOU SPEND ALL YOUR MONEY ON THE GIANT DEATH BALLS?
So putting aside the lack of elaborate death traps, they do something sort of astonishingly bad here. They manage a double fridging that's virtually back to back with barely a break between them. If you don't know what I mean, I'm referring to Women In Refrigerators, the trope where a female character is sacrificed to give the male hero motivation or pathos. So like, ok, they do it with pickpocket girl so that the Dong Yilong guy (the dude with the daddy quest) can become....more motivated? C'mon, he's been carrying his mother's comb with him the entire quest, he has enough pathos.
I figured one of our main heroes was going to die, so it's like, ugh, ok, FINE. But then they do it again with Jiang Luxia's character and it's like IUHIYGVHB:HIOPUYUGYG!!! Look at this precious cinnamon roll!
She just overcame her desire for vengeance so she could move on with her life, but nooooo, she has to be sacrificed for our soldier hero to feel more motivated to fight evil. He was already doing it.
Both female leads died in the arms of the male heroes for that ultimate pathos infusing moment, which is like.....wow.
Eventually our heroes confront the main villain together, who then sets off a riot and leads the emperor into his death trap fortress. The villain traps the emperor in a room and activates his fortress to become the ultimate death trap.....a giant oven.
I mean.......yeah sure, that'll do you some death as far as traps are concerned. But usually the oversized easy-bake oven death traps are reserved for earlier on, maybe your second or third trap as you work up towards your more deathy final endgame trap.
The film leaves a lot to be desired, especially in the death trap area as far as I'm concerned. If you're more concerned about plot and character development, then yeah, most definitely it leaves a lot to be desired. But this is just your big dumb blockbuster meant to waste time, so if you just want action scenes with nice fights you could do a lot worse. Would I recommend this? It had some interesting twists here and there, and it's a fairly fast paced dumb movie, so sure if you just want something that you can pick apart as your watching. Its failure to treat its most interesting characters well at the end is more than just a bit infuriating though, and my death trap disappointment definitely left a void in my heart.