A Writer’s Odyssey: Halfway There, by Andrew Benjamin
Have you ever watched a movie with two storylines going on at the same time and thought, “Storyline B is so much better than Storyline A! I want to see more of that!”? That is what A Writer’s Odyssey is. A movie with one story that is engaging, intriguing, and very could be its own movie. The other portion is not and hinders the enjoyment of the overall package.
Story number one follows a father, Guan Ning (Lei Jiayin), who has been trying to find his kidnapped daughter for many years. He is seemingly recruited by a powerful tech inventor to kill a viral famous author of an ongoing fantasy book. This author he worries will kill him in this book and therefore kill him in real life. Story number two takes place in the book the author is writing. A heroic teenager named Kongwen is on a quest to defeat the tyrannical rule of Lord Redmane. After defeating a powerful monk, the monk possesses him and helps him on his quest to defeat Lord Redmane.
As stated, there are two stories and we do see parallels with their respective heroes’ journeys. But not all journeys are exciting to experience. That’s where story number two does right. Kongwen has clear motivations that we see and can relate to. His is a classic hero vs villain story that is fun to watch. It’s also visually just more exciting to watch. There’s a huge battle scene involving lots of CGI, dragons, fire, and it’s all incredible to see unfold. That portion has a great ending which feels like the final boss of a Dark Souls video game.
Contrast that with story number one. We do get some flashbacks with Guan Ning and his daughter, but the story kind of just throws us in the middle of his journey without any buildup. And when the story involves an evil tech inventor and a shady organization tailing Guan Ning, it just doesn’t flow well. There’s also a very odd creative decision to give our character a superpower. He has the ability to accurately throw objects at a desired target. In my opinion, what would’ve worked better would be to keep the fantasy elements in story number two and keep number one as grounded and real as possible.
The acting is good overall from all parties. I think Kongwen and the monk have a unique on-screen pairing since the monk has possessed Kongwen. Shoutout to the makeup designers as well for how they design the monk’s possession of Kongwen. It’s a really cool design choice.
Ultimately this movie’s ability to please will come down to how much you can go with both stories. It’s hard to recommend a movie where one half is better than the other half. Maybe one-day Kongwen can get his own full movie and we can see his adventures in ancient China.