Tai Chi Zero features the grace and strength of martial arts and the raw power and mechanical nature of steampunk, and brings them together in a clash like no other. Yang Luchan (Yuan Xiaochao) is a gifted martial arts student who travels to Chen Villiage to learn a powerful form of martial arts. The only problem is that this form is never taught to outsiders.
Shortly after his arrival to the villiage, however, an army of foreign soldiers arrive equipped with a steampunk mechanism that destroys anything in its path to lay down tracks for a rail system. Normal martial arts won’t be enough to destroy this new kind of beast so Yang decides to help out in order to be a hero and hopefully gain the respect of the village so they will then teach them their form of tai chi.
Initially, Tai Chi Zero looked like it had a lot of promise. The film opens with a massive battle scene and features all some fantastic martial arts combat and stunt work. One of the cooler aspects about the film is that Yang has this abnormal growth on his head that, when pressed, turns him into a raging demon with white eyes. The opening battle shows the powerful nature of this but after that is practically disappears from the film. The excuse is that every time he uses it he is poisoned, and he is now on the brink of death from it. It’s a shame really, because it would have been awesome to see more of this powerful version of him.
Aside from the martial arts, Tai Chi Zero features a generous amount of comedy. The visual style of the film doesn’t hold back with animations and text layovers that help contribute to the overall aesthetics. It’s a little bit outrageous at times, such as when Yang is battling everyone in the village, Street Fighter style, but it works well with the film when there isn’t any action on screen.
Tai Chi Zero is the first in a planned trilogy of films so there’s a lot of plot setup and background information in the film. As a result, there isn’t as much action as I would have liked to see, especially when it comes to Yang and his previously mentioned power. I guess I just expected more from the same people that brought us IP Man and Detective Dee.