The Sorcerer and the White Snake (also known as Madame White Snake) is an old Chinese folk tale, which had only been passed on by word of mouth for a long time. At the end of the 17th century (Ming Dynasty) it was written down for the first time by Feng Menglong under the title The White Maiden Locked for Eternity in the Leifeng Pagoda. Since then, the story of the two snake demon siblings Su Su and Qing Qing, who feel more and more attracted to the world of man, fall in love there and then are hunted by demon hunting Buddhist monks, served as a basis for many Chinese operas, movies and TV series. So far, the movie Green Snake from 1993 by Tsui Hark is the most famous film version.
On 29th of September 2011, the Hollywood-like 3D movie The Sorcerer and the White Snake by Ching Siu-tung (known as director of A Chinese Ghost Story or the China Swordsman Trilogy) hit the cinemas in Hong Kong. Mostly it was promoted with action and martial arts star Jet Li - even though he doesn't play the most important role and due to the story he can't show much of his impressive fighting skills, which wasn't all too well received by some people who had wrong expectations.
Also you have to be prepared, in terms of content (and concomitant with that also in terms of acting), for a romantic Asian fairytale which deals with true love, friendship and tolerance with the usual and inevitable sob stuff (which can be a little bit difficult for western audiences).
Even though the quality of the many CGI special effects reaches from "impressive" to "almost (supposedly) animatic" and the crucial final moment comes with a pompous ballad and a lot of long-drawn slow motion shots and the movie is on the brink of drifting into unbearable kitsch, the story is told straightforward and not too long-drawn-out. The actors do a decent job and especially the last half-hour is absolutely magnificent in terms of visual appeal. A (except for the before-mentioned finale) consistent background music rounds off the overall picture.
So: All in all The Sorcerer and the White Snake definitely deserves to be seen if one is at least a little bit interested in this kind of genre.
There are two different official versions of the movie, which is quite usual for such productions: the Asian Version with a runtime of about 102 minutes (NTSC) and the International Version, produced for the western market and about 8 minutes shorter. In the latter, almost the whole subplot with Xu Xian's wish of getting to know Susu's parents and proposing to her was removed, and also removed as a consequence of that was a quite funny scene in which the two sisters try to simulate a good home respectively family life with the help of their animal-demon friends, temporarily transformed to human form, and the following quarrel between the monk Fahai & his fellow monks and Qingqing ("Green Snake").
These parts aren't essential for the overall understanding, so the movie works fine without them. But with the removal of this material they also cut a big part of humor out of the end of the movie's first third together with some visually appealling scenes. Also, in the International Version, the beginning of the intensifying relationship of the kid monk Neng Ren and Qingqing and also Fahai starting to see his former apprentice respectively demons in another way, was omitted. Therefore, the later changes of mind come quite abrupt and seem to be a little bit less elaborate in the shorter version.
The Asian Version runs 7 min. and 51 sec. longer than the International Version.
4 Extended Scenes = 8 min. 35 Sec.
1 Alternative Scene Course
1 Alternative Shot
One more logo is displayed (not mentioned in the scene listing).
An additional close-up of the opening wooden door.
Xu Xian explains Susu, that he sincerely wants her and that he wants to ask her parents for her hand. Thereupon she asks if they are "officially" together and if they will marry, which Xu Xian affirms. White Snake joyfully embraces him.
Alternative Scene Course
The ruin of the house respectively Qingqing's enthusiasm for this place are depicted in different shots. Just in the Asian Version she transforms and so brightens up the building a little bit.
No Runtime Difference
At this point, they removed a bigger part for the International Version: At first, Susu introduces Xu Xian to her "family" so that he can officially ask the parents for Susu's hand. But Mum, Dad and the siblings are actually some of her temporarily transformed animal-demon friends in human form who are hence acting pretty weird and as time goes on they seem to be on the brink of transforming back due to the quite complicated spell.
While Xu Xian, obviously almost blind with love, soon tells deeply moved about his poor origins and the intention of marrying Susu, his beloved and Qingqing are busy trying to keep up the cover of their friends. When they finally almost can't keep up the spell anymore, Qingqing stuns Xu Xian even though Susu isn't happy about that.
Meanwhile, Fahai and some other monks of the Jinshan Temple arrive at the transformed ruin of the house. Fahai removes the illusion spell and lets his companions hunt the fleeing animal-demons while he fights with Qingqing who wants to buy some time for her sister who is fleeing with Xu Xian. Qingqing ineffectively attacks Fahai several times, then he starts to fight back aggressively and so he manages to push his opponent against a rock face. When he closes in for the kill, Neng Ren, who has watched this whole scenery, intervenes by using his bat wings to fly to Qingqing and protect her. Fahai recognizes his former apprentice, throws his energy ray against a rock and almost plunges down due to the explosion.
Neng Ren begs his former master to spare Qingqing and then flies away with her. Fahai gazes after them wistfully. Qingqing, who fainted before they left, now awakes again during the flight and she's glad that Neng Ren saved her. He promises to protect her for the rest of her life.
7 Min. 40 Sec.
Xu Xian awakes in his house, Susu watches him. The surprised herbalist wants to know what they are doing there now and if everything went right. Susu explains that her "parents" gave their blessings to the relationship, that they are man and wife now and that they will be together to the end of their days. Xu Xian can hardly believe how "easy" it turned out to be.
The immediately following shot of the couple is displayed slightly different in the two versions.
No Runtime Difference
Equal to the beginning of the International Version, there's again the additional mentioning of the distributor (not mentioned in the scene listing).