Time Travel Thursday: Iceman: The Time Traveller (2018)
Time Travel Tropes6
Fights and filmmaking4
Coherence and chemistry2
Matthew Turner | On 27, Feb 2020
Director: Wai Man Yip
Cast: Donnie Yen, Eva Huang, Simon Yam, Wang Baoqiang, Yu Kang, Lam Suet, Bonnie Wong, Lo Hoi-pang
Watch Iceman: The Time Traveler online in the UK: Netflix UK / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play
Wondering how to fill the time travel gap now that Travelers and Timeless have been cancelled? Then transport yourself no further than Time Travel Thursdays, our column devoted to time travel movies on Netflix. It’s on Thursdays.
Directed by Wai Man Yip, Ice Man: The Time Traveler is the sequel to 2014’s action comedy Ice Man, in which Donnie Yen played a Ming Dynasty guard who’s frozen for 400 years and wakes up in present-day Hong Kong. Technically, the sequel is actually the second half of the first film, since the notoriously troubled production resulted in the original film being split into two parts. Unfortunately, the films’ problems are plainly visible on screen, making the sequel every bit as disappointing as its predecessor.
After a brief recap (the films were released four years apart, after all), the plot continues immediately where Ice Man left off. Having tracked down the Golden Wheel of Time, He Ying (Yen) and love interest May (Eva Huang) time-travel to the Ming Dynasty era, hoping to save He Ying’s village from being ransacked by Imperial Guards after he was framed for murder. However, evil warlord Yuanlong (Simon Yam) has also arrived back in the past and he sets a dastardly scheme in motion.
As time travel movies go, at least Ice Man: The Time Traveler has some actual time travel in it, with the Golden Wheel of Time getting some serious usage over the course of the film’s 87 minutes. The time travel effects are mostly hideous (like a messy, digital scribble), but they do result in the film’s only interesting visual sequence, when He Ying and a Japanese warlord are battling on top of a train that’s going through a time tunnel. Okay, so none of it makes any sense (the train promptly disappears from the story), but at least it looks impressive.
Sadly, the rest of the film makes even less sense than the train sequence. It’s doubly frustrating because the ingredients are all there – terrible things happen and He Ying swears he’ll use the time machine to fix them. So far, so good, except, spoiler alert, he doesn’t, all of which makes for a deeply unsatisfying experience. It’s especially baffling because we see various moments get reversed (spears getting unthrown and so on), but nothing that we actually care about.
The film also fails to properly establish its time travel rules, so even when the Golden Wheel of Time is spinning, so to speak, it’s impossible to tell what’s going on. For example, a train from 1927 appears several times and seems to be important, but we never find out why.
Several other problems continue from the first film, such as the general level of acting and the fact that there’s zero chemistry between Yen and Huang. (He belatedly gets another potential love interest, but that’s another plot strand the film completely ignores.)
On the plus side, at least the sequel loses the first film’s obsession with gross-out gags, even if the result is no humour whatsoever. Similarly, the fight scenes are marginally more entertaining than they were in the first film, perhaps the result of the change in director.
Ultimately, though, Ice Man: The Time Traveler is even more frustrating than the first film, not least because it’s so easy to see how the plot could have been improved. The ending, in particular, is deeply unsatisfying, not to mention nonsensical. One for time travel movie completists only.
Iceman: The Time Traveller is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.