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White Snake

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
White Snake Movie Poster Image
Chinese folklore-based adventure is dark, violent, sensual.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 99 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Positive messages include importance of seeing past differences, being committed to the person you love, acting out of selflessness and generosity, believing in others' goodness and value, even if they don't look or act like you.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Blanca and Xuan fall in love and, despite their differences, Xuan will do anything to be with Blanca. They both sacrifice their safety for each other and their communities. Verta defends Blanca and tries to protect her. The people of Xuan's village see the error of their ways and, despite fear and prejudice, try to save him and Blanca.

Violence

The demons and the general's superpowered assassins battle one another, and both groups attack humans. People in villages are forced to catch snakes for the dark general to consume. Battle sequences include people being killed or injured, villages being destroyed (dead or unconscious bodies briefly visible). A magical machine steals the life essence of people and demons, taking their souls, leaving them unable to reincarnate or come back to life. Xuan wakes up believing his penis was removed for a spell that turns him into a demon. A demon is slowly dying from a disease. Creepy imagery.

Sex

Blanca and Verta hug while naked (they have bare shoulders), bathe in water together. Blanca's bare back, legs, and side of her buttocks are shown as she exits the water and dons a clingy, low-cut robe. Verta, also in a low-cut robe, embraces Blanca in a sensual manner (they call each other "sister," but it's unclear whether it's literal or a term of endearment). After Blanca meets Xuan, they begin to like each other, flirt, and -- much later -- hug and kiss. In one scene, they kiss passionately, and Blanca pulls off her robe; there's a close-up of Xuan kissing her and hugging her naked waist. The scene fades to black, but it's clear they've spent the night together. They proclaim their love and affection and desire to be together in any form (human or demon). Verta seems jealous of Xuan; she (and other snake demons) make comments about how close her relationship is with Blanca.

Language

Insults like "traitor," "liar," "death to collaborators," "little demon," etc.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One demon character is almost always seen smoking a mysterious substance that creates green smoke from a long-stem pipe (looks like an opium pipe).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that White Snake is an animated action-adventure tale based in Chinese folklore that has enough dark violence and mature sensuality to make it iffy for younger viewers. The film is a prequel of sorts to the Chinese legend of White Snake: It follows a white snake demon (who can change into the form of a young woman) who loses her memory while in human form and ends up falling in love with the young man who finds her. The story is fairly complicated, and the battles between the snake demons and their enemies are destructive and violent, leaving humans and demons alike dead and villages destroyed. Sexual content includes scenes of partial nudity (bare backs and legs, and a quick glimpse of a woman's bottom), as well as passionate kissing in one fade-to-black love scene in which it's clear that the central couple has spent the night together. So it's not for little kids, but teens and adults who enjoy foreign animation or legend-based stories will appreciate the film and its connection to Chinese folklore.

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What's the story?

WHITE SNAKE is an animated action-adventure inspired by the same-named Chinese fable about a snake demon who goes by the name of Blanca (voiced by Stephanie Sheh in the English-dubbed version) when transformed into human form. The movie, which is conceived as a prequel to the Chinese legend, starts off with Blanca complaining to her fellow snake demon, Verta (Vivian Lu), that she has meditated for 500 years but cannot reach immortality. Her heart is not at peace, so Verta gives her a magical jade pin that transports Blanca 500 years in the past. She learns that she had been sent to assassinate a dark general who was capturing and killing snakes for nefarious purposes when she was nearly killed and then drowned. After that, she wakes up with amnesia and discovers that she was rescued by handsome young snake-catcher Xuan (Paul Yen), who wants to help her recall her past. As Xuan and Blanca (along with Xuan's trusty dog, Dudou) journey to figure out Blanca's true identity, they grow closer. But Verta and the other snake demons are alarmed to hear that Blanca has been spotted consorting with a human. 

Is it any good?

A complicated storyline; dark, violent action sequences; and swoon-worthy romance make this Chinese film a better pick for more mature audiences than most animated movies. Although the story of White Snake is based on an ancient Chinese legend, it's not likely that Western moviegoers will be well-versed enough in it to understand that this movie is more of a prequel to the fable than an adaptation of it. Some of the names and characters are the same, but without much context, unfamiliar viewers may be left wondering about several backstories. The animators do a fabulous job with the dazzling snake demon animation and action sequences, but the humans and backgrounds are slightly less impressive. It's also distracting that, once again, animated female characters (in particular) are sexualized.

Despite all of the many battle and fight scenes, White Snake works best as a romance, using recognizable themes such as a fish out of water, star-crossed lovers, and an amnesiac hoping to retrieve memories. There's plenty of chemistry between Xuan and Blanca, if not a lot of funny banter. Thankfully Dudou (who's revealed to have the ability to speak) provides much-needed comic relief to the rather serious proceedings. Several villains emerge, but the Big Bad is the Dark General (James Sie) and his henchman, Little General (Vincent Rodriguez III). White Snake should appeal to animation lovers, especially families with middle schoolers and older, who will appreciate the film's maturity.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in White Snake. Is it necessary to the story? Does animated violence impact viewers differently than live action?

  • Did this movie spark your interest in Chinese folklore? Would you like to learn more about the legend of the white snake?

  • Which characters, if any, do you consider role models? How do they exhibit important character strengths?

  • Discuss the sensuality and romance in the movie. Do you think certain kinds of animated movies are more apt to show romance than others? Why?

Movie details

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