Tuesday, June 06, 2023

Heroes of the Golden Mask

These superheroes are inspired by the Bronze Masks of Sanxingdui unearthed by archaeologists in Sichuan back in the late 80’s, but they have been upgraded to gold. Apparently, gold is more blingy and it presumably costs the same to animate. Charlie would also prefer gold, because of its higher re-sale value. Few people consider him a hero, least of all Charlie, but a hero-less mask chooses him anyway in Sean Patrick O’Reilly’s Heroes of the Golden Mask, which releases this Friday in VOD.

Li’s father was the leader of the Golden Mask quintet of heroes, until he died in battle against the evil super-villain Kunyi, who is determined to steal Sanxingdui’s mystical Jade Blade. The archer and her team-mates, including a Chinese Zodiac-shape-shifter, a hammer-wielding fish-person from Atlantis, and a telekinetic juggler, know Kunyi will be back, so Li must let her dad’s mask divine its next host. Bizarrely, it picks crime-infested contemporary Chicago as the place to find a new hero.

Charlie is an orphaned pick-pocket, who lives by his fingers and wits. He is a thief, but he is hardly the nastiest criminal in Chicago. Unfortunately, he owes money to the far worse Rizzo, whose voice was supplied by the late Christopher Plummer. When things get too hot for Charlie, Li provides a convenient escape, but he is reluctant to embrace his new heroic role.

Golden Mask
holds the distinction of being Plummer’s final screen credit. Frankly, his familiar Transatlantic accent would seem like an odd choice for the Capone-like Rizzo, but his growling whisper does not sound completely out of place. Without a doubt, Ron Perlman’s voice is best cast as the sinister Kunyi, whereas Patton Oswalt is the most annoying as Aesop, the whining Atlantean.

Gold Mask
is based on some real-world archaeology, which is cool, but the figure design and character expressions often look cheap in a way that gives computer-generated animation a bad name. It just appears disposable, which is a shame, because some thought when into its conception.

The good news is there is nothing that obviously constitutes political propaganda incorporated into the film, despite the involvement of several Sichuan-based organizations in the production. The screenplay, based on John Wilson’s novel, is nothing special, but it offers up a hero’s journey that will hold the interest of a lot of ten-to-twelve-year-olds. However, it just is not special enough to recommend
Heroes of the Golden Mask to adult animation fans when releases this Friday (6/9) on VOD.