It is almost as though Tsui Hark, having made early entries in the Wu Xia cycle like Zu, then stood back at a distance, allowing other directors under him to shape the genre, and then after the initial furore had died down returned with Green Snake to deliver his own version that puts all other imitators to silence. The result is one of the most gorgeous and extravagantly beautiful of all Hong Kong fantasy films. It is lit in ravishingly sensual colours and dressed to lavish excess with images of blossom petals, billowing silks and Chinese lanterns floating through every corner of the screen. There is an exquisitely innocent and coy sensuality to the love scenes between Joey Wong and Wu Kuo Chiu. As the two snake women, Maggie Cheung and Joey Wong have a series of delightfully silly sequences slithering about, climbing walls, trying to hide their tails and catching flies with their tongues.
Tsui Hark leaps into the wild, fantastical martial arts sequences of the cycle with combatants running on air, leaping with giant strides, conjuring rains and flights through the air battling giant cranes. There is a stupendous climax with the girls and the monk battling one another, raising giant floods, lifting entire mountains into the air with a single rope and trapping people in giant silk surplices. Surprisingly, Tsui Hark seems less interested in the fantastical combat than he does in the ravishingly dreamy visuals. Weak visual effects let some of the sequences down but Green Snake is still one of the finest of the genre.
Green Snake is based on the Chinese legend Madame White Snake/Legend of the White Snake. The story originated out of oral tradition and was first published in 1620, having been told in a number of different forms since, including being adapted into an opera. The story has been filmed a number of times as a Japanese adaptation Madame White Snake (1956), a Japanese anime Panda and the Magic Serpent (1958), a Hong Kong-made opera adaptation Madame White Snake (1962) and the subsequent Chinese-produced version The Sorcerer and the White Snake (2011).
Tsui Harks other genre films as director are:- The Butterfly Murders (1979), Were Going to Eat You (1980), Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain (1983), Aces Go Places III: Our Man from Bond Street/Mad Mission III: Our Man from Bond Street (1984), Butterfly Lovers (1994), Zu Warriors/The Legend of Zu (2001), Black Mask 2: City of Masks (2002), Missing (2008), Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame (2010), Flying Swords of Dragon Gate (2011), Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon (2013) and Journey to the West: Demon Chapter (2017). Tsui Hark has also produced A Chinese Ghost Story (1987), The Laser Man (1988), Roboforce/I Love Maria (1988), A Chinese Ghost Story II (1990), Swordsman (1990), A Terracotta Warrior (1990), A Chinese Ghost Story III (1991), The King of Chess (1991), New Dragon Gate Inn (1992), Swordsman II (1992), Iron Monkey (1993), The Magic Crane (1993), Swordsman III: The East is Red (1993), Wicked City (1993), Burning Hell in Paradise (1994), Black Mask (1996), A Chinese Ghost Story: The Tsui Hark Animation (1997), Master Q (2001) and Vampire Hunters/The Era of Vampires (2002).