Director Bill Lee has been making action, martial arts and crime films since the heyday of Hong Kong cinema with titles such as Black Mask (1996), A Fighters Blues (2000), Star Runner (2003), Dragon Squad (2005), Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon (2008), 14 Blades (2010), White Vengeance (2011) and Dragon Blade (2015) to his name. Lee is also the production designer on Time Raiders as a result, the design and decor of the film is utterly gorgeous. Everything from the antiquities to the clockwork artefacts has a handcrafted feel as though Lee and his team were determined to make the most beautiful looking pieces of bric-a-brac or textured sets that anyone ever had for a film.
The downside of Time Raiders is that it is a film of constant postures. We get blurs of fast-paced martial arts action and gunplay at regular intervals but the film is almost entirely lacking in substance. Everything is constantly being arranged for the 3D camera and to dazzle the eye. Case in point is the absurd sequence that climaxes the film where various characters are fighting around an arena on huge mechanical devices whirling about on extension arms. What purpose these improbably designed devices serve and why they were built by the ancients is never explained, the sequence exists just because it looks cool to watch characters jumping between vast tilting mechanical rotor arms as they fight. There is a similar sequence where the party enter the tomb and a fight occurs around a massive lattice grid that that seems to plunge into the centre of the earth and exists for no reason other than looking cool in 3D. It is a film that feels as though it resembles a videogame more than it ever does a film. Some of the sequences are undeniably stunning I loved one where the party enter a workshop and set off a Rube Goldberg contraption where small flaming balls travel down grooves that light up dozens of lanterns all over the room and then cause puppets to come to life but this sits alongside the inanity of the subsequent scene that has characters ducking around a room of pillars with scything blades and learning to avoid them by doing dance moves.
(Nominee for Best Production Design at this sites Best of 2016 Awards).
Full film available online here:-