Here is a mysteriously gigantic and interminable action-fantasy adventure – a colossal Chinese-Russian co-production that is in fact a sequel, also known as Viy 2: Journey to China. It’s a follow-up to another digitally bloated, genetically modified piece of entertainment from 2014 called – in various territories – The Forbidden Kingdom or Forbidden Empire.
The setting is 18th-century Russia, China and England, and in this last country we are treated to the admittedly enjoyable sight of Arnold Schwarzenegger, in what appears to be an English naval uniform and bizarre tricorn hat, playing James Hook, the jailer of the Tower of London. For a fraction of second, on seeing Arnie in his get-up, I hoped he would try a British accent, but his normal one works as well as any other.
One of his prisoners is a man in an iron mask, who may be Peter the Great, the Russian tzar who is subject to an overthrow plot, accidentally uncovered by map-maker Jonathan Green (Jason Flemyng), who is in Moscow to show the tzar some of his cartographical creations. Another prisoner is an enigmatic Chinese master played by Jackie Chan, and a Chan/Schwarzenegger punch-up is certainly diverting.
But then we are stuck with endless, weightless green-screen shenanigans involving a dragon whose eyelashes are used to create tea (I think that’s right) and a cast of thousands who drift across various CGI landscapes. We also get that time-honoured swashbuckle standby, people trying to get across a rope bridge over an abyss while someone with a sword at one end is unsportingly trying to chop it down. There is evidently extensive use of additional dialogue recording, which feels a bit odd.
• The Iron Mask is available on digital platforms from 10 April.
Source: The Guardian