BMZ Review: China: The Panda Adventure
By Herb Lash
China: The Panda Adventure
Written by: Herb Lash
Source: Big Movie Zone
Date: October 2001
Pandas in the wild, a stunning Chinese wilderness, a real life heroic female personality, danger and intrigue - on paper CHINA, THE PANDA ADVENTURE would seem a promising candidate for the still experimental field that is the Large Format drama. The design is clear, but the movie is less than successful. Cuddly pandas will appeal to children, good old-fashioned drama will appeal to adults, Chinese vistas will appeal to the nature lover and a credit sequence featuring panda facts will appeal to museum curators - but when it's all sewn together the final product is as unlovely as Frankenstein.
In 1936, New York fashion designer Ruth Harkness set out for Shanghai to see what had become of her ill-fated adventurer/hunter husband. All that remains of her beloved is his ashes and a diary detailing his quest for the elusive and believed to be dangerous wild pandas of western China. Kind and brave Shanghai native Quentin agrees to help Ruth succeed where her husband failed - together they will find the mystical/mythical panda creature. But cold around the heart hunter Dakar Johnson is also intent on finding the pandas, to kill a few and bring back pelts. What ensues is a race up the Yangtze River, a trek through treacherous mountain terrain, a traipse across a lethal rope bridge and a brush or two with corrupt Chinese soldiers. Ruth is triumphant in her expedition to find the pandas - but her victory comes at no small price.
The syrupy, slow opening and character introductions set a sleepy tone that seems likely to lose the younger members of the audience - kids waiting for the pandas to romp across the screen. The dramatic elements here are about on par with a daytime soap opera - slightly enlivened by the exotic setting. Relief is the overwhelming sensation when the film steers away from drama and ventures into the great outdoors. Large Format enthusiasts will recognize the familiar travelogue style - lush valleys, running rapids and wide-open vistas. These shots are enjoyable, but hardly enough to carry the film. Ruth reads her husband's diary accounts of panda behavior and these readings allow us to leave the drama in order to spend a bit of time in the company of the rollicking, adorable pandas. Again, relief is the primary sensation, a brief respite from the tedious dramatic storyline.
There are a few positives that should not be over-looked. The much talked about IMAX problem of synchronizing dialogue to picture is nicely overcome here. The filmmakers do not resort to the hiding of speaking faces with odd camera angles or other gimmicky maneuvers. Also, there is a scene featuring a Chinese mask dancer that is truly magical - he, along with some captivating Chinese non-actor extras steal the film. The filmmakers here should be lauded for at least trying - but out there, somewhere, the first good dramatic Big Movie is still waiting to be made.
Agree/Disagree With This Review?
Additional BMZ Reviews of China: The Panda Adventure
Pandemonium? by Ross Anthony
Movie Reviews by Herb Lash
Coral Reef Adventure
S.O.S. Planet (3D)
India: Kingdom of the Tiger
Jane Goodall's Wild Chimpanzees
Adrenaline Rush: The Science of Risk
Pulse: A Stomp Odyssey
Alaska: Spirit of the Wild
Africa: The Serengeti
Horses: The Story of Equus
Australia: Land Beyond Time
Space Station 3D
Cirque du Soleil: Journey of Man (3D)
Kilimanjaro: To the Roof of Africa
China: The Panda Adventure
The Human Body
Ski to the Max
Lost Worlds: Life in the Balance
Majestic White Horses
Haunted Castle (3D)
Ocean Men: Extreme Dive
Journey into Amazing Caves
NSync: Bigger Than Live
Across the Sea of Time (3D)
ALL ACCESS: Front row, Backstage, LIVE!
Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure
Mysteries of Egypt
Encounter in the Third Dimension (3D)
Water and Man
Legend of Loch Lomond
Michael Jordan to the Max
Siegfried & Roy: The Magic Box (3D)
Features & Reviews Search
Features & Reviews by Category
- BIG & DIGITAL TAKES AUDIENCES TO MARS IN NEW FILM, LIGHTSPEED PIONEERS: STRANDED ON MARS
- The Great Apes 3D trailer
- nWave Pictures Distribution Names Jennifer Lee Hackett Director of Sales & Distribution, Americas
- Trailer, images from Focus
- Warner Bros. Pictures' Focus Set To Open In IMAX® Domestic Theatres On February 27
Latest Movie Reviews
- Put that Spring Back in your Step! By: Ross Anthony
- The Monarch Migration By: Ross Anthony
- Ice is Nice By: Ross Anthony
Get up-to-date information on new and upcoming big movies, the latest big movie buzz, multimedia clips, and the latest Big Movie Zone features.