Curse Of Turandot - An Interesting Chinese Remake of a Classic Italian Opera (Review)

A favourite Italian opera gets a remake - Chinese Fantasy-style!
Director Xiaolong Zheng
Starring Guan Xiaotong, Dylan Sprouse, Jiang Wen, Collin Chou
Alternative Names 图兰朵:魔咒缘起

I’m not the world’s biggest fantasy movie fan, in fact with the exception of the two Yin Yang Master movies and the Enchanted Phantom, I dont think I’ve ever really enjoyed the Asian fantasy genre.

But that didn’t stop me from enjoying this! Maybe I don’t watch enough fantasy movies to know the good ones from the bad ones, but I know what I enjoy in a movie, and this movie had some of those elements in it.

This is based on an opera by an Italian composer, and features a very decent cast. I’m going to tell you why I enjoyed The Curse of Turnadot.

What's this movie about?

His Great Majesty the Khan sends his soldiers to the land of Malvia to initiate talks and develop a friendship, however his general has other plans, deciding to slaughter all the citizens. 

Malvia holds a secret treasure: three bracelets that when combined, provide the host with immeasurable power, but inflicting a horrible curse. The Queen of Malvia sends her son with his martial arts master to be saved from slaughter by the General, who finds the bracelets and submits them as gifts for the Khan’s daughter Turandot.

She takes a liking to the bracelets, but the curse overcomes her body, and if she doesnt find her romantic suitor who can defeat the curse by the time she turns 18, it will completely consume her body.

In comes Blue Eyes, the royal son of Malvia. But suffering amnesia, he doesn’t know this until he sees the visions created by the bracelets that unlock his memory to defeat the curse inflicted upon the princess.

Why You Should Watch

I kind of made that sound a little more complicated than it was, because I found all the online synopsis’ of this film to be really lacking in storyline elements.

Again, not being a fan of fantasy films, I am not sure if this is a great story by fantasy standards, but I enjoyed it.

There is an attempted mixture here of western and Chinese fantasy elements, that’s good enough but definitely skews more towards the Chinese vision of what fantasy is.

Thus, this means we get a lot of flying and jumping, a lot of dance-like fighting scenes but also a lot of strange characters that make little sense in the general context of the film.

For example, take Liu’er, the younger “sister” of our main character Blue Eyes, or Calaf, which is his real name. She’s a character that's supposed to be around 12-14 years old, but she is played by 27 year old pop singer Siyi Lin from the Chinese version of AKB48 known as SNH48. There is a scene where she uses her whips to beat down some palace guards: men who are twice her size and strength, yet there is another scene later on where is rendered helpless by just two of the princess’ female bodyguards. It’s a bit of weird fantasy logic that makes no sense.

But I did like most of the performances in this movie, including Siyi Lin. She was terrific. Personally I thought Dylan Sprouse ripping out fluent Mandarin was quite interesting, but reading his profile there is no indication he can actually speak Mandarin, so that was a pleasant surprise. 

Action movie fans will be curious about the casting of several action movie stars. Taiwanese actor Collin Chou from many great Hong Kong action films takes up the role of Sifu Zhou and shows off some average sword fighting skills. Certainly nothing too impressive considering his back catalogue. 

Likewise with the casting of Wen Jiang as the Khan. Wen Jiang starred and directed in my favourite Chinese action film - the absolutely insane Let The Bullets Fly. But in this film he is just relegated as being a passive royal character. He does it well, and has the right voice for royalty, but its hardly a stretch of his skills.

But Hu Jun on the other hand, as the General, he is typically fantastic. He always seems to be play the bad guy in movies - he has the right look, and in parts of this movie, he shows off that he definitely has the right body for the role.

So that just leaves us with Xiaotong Guan. I’ve only seen her in a handful of films, such as The Captain where she plays a nerdy flight enthusiast in a completely unnecessary role, and last year romantic flop Oversize Love, and while I think she a has a cute innocence to her, I’m not convinced she can play a bad character as well as someone like Dongyu Zhou or Zifeng Zhang could have.  

It sounds like I didn’t enjoy the film, but I really did. I enjoyed the special effects the most. Being a fantasy setting means that reality can take a back step, and that shows with the firework scenes, when the characters conjure up some impressive looking patterns. These scenes made even more impressive by the fact they were done by Australian effects house Rising Sun, who have a very stellar back catalogue of effects production in both Hollywood and Chinese cinema. Go Aussie!

But, the ending was a bit of a let down. I’m not too sure what I expected, except I know I didn't want a happy ending where everyone gets married and lives happily ever after. And while thankfully we don’t get that ending, the ending we do get feels very strange and really not something I saw coming.


What we have here is a very big budget fantasy romance movie that eschews the traditional romantic plotline for something that's a little unexpected. But with a great cast of Chinese and International actors, including French actress Sophie Marceau and Swiss actor Vincent Perez, colourful eye popping visuals and great special effects, this is the kind of popcorn fantasy movie that I enjoy.

I’m not sure it will leave a lasting impression on me, and it won’t make my Top 10 best or worst lists, but for 2 hours I enjoyed what this movie had to offer. And I have a suspicion this will end up on Netflix shortly if you’re really wanting to watch this.

If you’ve seen this, what did you think?