‘Kung Fu’ Review: CW Reboot Is Fleeting, Familiar Entertainment

Likable skill and forged motion scenes conflict with clichéd plotting and route in The CW’s reboot of a vintage sequence.

The CW’s new tackle “Kung Fu” has so much to love: Olivia Liang is an stress-free sequence lead and will get to flex her skills in a handful of significant motion sequences, whilst the display’s emphasis on circle of relatives and neighborhood make it a extra sure chaser to the deluge of darkish and gritty motion sequence that experience popped up over the previous few years. That stated, after the pilot episode it’s nonetheless now not transparent if the brand new sequence will lean on its strengths or fall again on clichéd plotting and clunky exposition.

The unique 1972 “Kung Fu” sequence, which starred David Carradine as a white Shaolin monk who roamed the Outdated West, was once undeniably a manufactured from its time. The CW’s display, which is billed as a “re-imagining” of the unique as a substitute of a immediately reboot, updates the environment to recent San Francisco, includes a predominantly Asian solid, and boasts a extra cohesive central narrative. The CW sequence makes little effort to subvert audience’ expectancies or another way upload a wrinkle to standard martial arts/coming-of-age tales, however there’s nonetheless amusing available within the display’s motion sequences and lighthearted and upbeat tone.

Liang stars within the sequence as Nicky Shen, a faculty dropout who is shipped to China by way of her mom to go into an organized marriage. That deal doesn’t go well with Nicky, who cuts off touch along with her circle of relatives and joins a Shaolin monastery, the place she turns into a kung fu professional over the path of 3 years. The monastery is attacked by way of a mysterious team of warriors a number of hours after Nicky’s mentor encourages her to make amends along with her circle of relatives. A mysterious antagonist steals the monastery’s magical sword/macguffin and leaves Nicky for lifeless. The heroine’s efforts to spot the assailants are fruitless, so she treks again to San Fransisco to reconnect along with her siblings and oldsters. This all occurs inside the display’s first 8 mins.

To mention that the “Kung Fu” premiere suffers from pacing problems can be an enormous understatement. The episode covers so much of flooring in its more or less 40-minute runtime — two possible romantic pursuits are presented, tensions in Nicky’s circle of relatives are explored, and there’s a legal gang terrorizing Chinatown, amongst different issues — which leaves sadly little time to dig deeper into the display’s key characters. On one hand, “Kung Fu” will for sure put on out its welcome briefly if next episodes care for the frantic pacing in lieu of fleshing out any of its characters, however a minimum of the episode will get lots of the team-up and beginning tale trade out of the way in which previous than identical displays; “Kung Fu” would possibly now not characteristic any caped crusaders or a Inexperienced Arrow, however the premiere follows identical tale beats and tropes that experience outlined the CW’s quite a lot of superhero displays lately. It must come as no marvel that The CW veteran Greg Berlanti (“Batwoman,” “The Flash,” “Arrow”) is an govt manufacturer right here.

There’s explanation why for martial arts enthusiasts and lovers of extra lighthearted motion displays there’s hovering pop song all over the premiere’s climactic struggle scene! to wish to keep invested. Liang and the remainder of the display’s key skills are lots likable, regardless of now not being given a lot dramatic subject material to paintings with, and the emphasis on Nicky’s circle of relatives and Chinatown’s neighborhood are a pleasing distinction to the display’s reasonably fantastical components. “Kung Fu” would possibly now not convey the rest new to the desk, however there’s one thing interesting concerning the display’s earnest simplicity and loss of seriousness.

“Kung Fu” for sure has possible, however the premiere episode additionally boasts a couple of different caution indicators. There’s a huge quantity of exposition all through the premiere and characters speak about their backstories and abilities with the subtlety of a bag of sledgehammers. Nicky’s brother Ryan (Jon Prasida) is a clinical pupil it’s defined as such and he additionally wears a lab coat at house. Henry (Eddie Liu) is presented as Nicky’s presumed crime-fighting sidekick and love passion — he’s toned and wears a sleeveless blouse in his introductory scene. There’s a possibility for the display to dig deeper into Nicky’s relationships and her talent to emphasise with Chinatown’s citizens, however the display has a long way to visit make its characters stand out.

The display’s struggle scenes are a in a similar way combined bag, however fare higher than its plot-driven components. Of the premiere’s 3 primary struggle scenes, the 2 that essentially characteristic sensible results and down to earth choreography excel. There’s a shocking physicality to a number of of the struggle scenes and Nicky’s brawls with anonymous legal goons strike the very best steadiness between empowering her persona whilst nonetheless making it look like she may well be in exact risk. Nonetheless, “Kung Fu” can be smart to persist with extra grounded motion scenes, as a result of issues truly pass off the rails when particular results and slow-motion are closely integrated into the scuffling with. The premiere’s first motion scene, which takes position at Nicky’s Shaolin monastery, is the episode’s worst by way of a substantial margin: Folks’s kicks obviously fail to hook up with their supposed objectives and you’ll be able to nearly see the background being rendered on a pc in actual time. The finances or technical talents for even remotely plausible CGI is obviously now not to be had right here, however “Kung Fu” has already proved it doesn’t want the ones issues to create stress-free motion sequences.

There are caveats upon caveats to “Kung Fu,” however regardless of all of its quirks, the display has possible, and with a tighter center of attention on its characters Nicky’s adventures to shield her neighborhood might be definitely worth the funding.

Grade: C-

“Kung Fu” premieres on April 7 at eight p.m. on The CW.

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