Effects lightning planned for sequel to 'Stormriders'

'300' inspires Pang helming twins

"The Stormriders II" will update the groundbreaking visual effects featured in the first film a decade ago by bringing the look of "300" to the sequel of the adapted comic book hit.

Produced by Universe Entertainment, the $12 million project will be the first Chinese- language film to use the digital backlot technique made popular by last year's Warner Bros. hit "300."

The twin-brother directing team of Danny and Oxide Pang ("The Eye") will team with their "Re-cycle" visual effects partner Fat Face Prods. to create a virtual world where physical logic ceases to apply and action scenes defy conventions.

"We let our imaginations run wild," Danny Pang said. "My brother and I sat down with the special effects director of Fat Face and just visualized the most out-of-this-world action sequences possible. Coupled with the virtual world environment, the visuals in the film will be something the audience has never seen in a Hong Kong film."

Although the film is touted as the "300" of Hong Kong cinema, the filmmakers want to take the striking visuals of the Spartan effects-fest a step further.

"The effects can bring the best out of the distinctive 'wusi' (action warrior) fighting style. We just want to make the audience go 'Wow!' " Pang said.

The action fantasy will feature effects-heavy fight sequences — like the defeated fighter disintegrating during combat — in addition to computer-animated environments.

Production design will draw inspiration from Chinese and Tibetan architecture along with Middle Eastern historical sites and artifacts, Fat Face director Ng Yuen-fai said. "The visual language will be unique, a fusion of East and West plus a lot of imagination thrown in," Ng said.

Pang and Ng agreed that the point of using special effects and animation is to create something the audience can't see in real life, but the decision to try the virtual world technique was made not only for the audience but also for the filmmakers. "We hope the audience will feel that this is a film made in 2009," Pang said. "But most of all we want to satisfy ourselves. At the end of the day, we just want to get a sense of excitement when we see the finished product. That's the most important thing for us."

Adapted from artist Wing-shing Ma's 1990s comic book classic, the original "Stormriders," directed by Andrew Lau ("Infernal Affairs"), broke opening-weekend boxoffice records in Hong Kong when it was released in 1998. It went on to gross nearly $6 million in Hong Kong.

A story about the epic battle between two invincible fantasy heroes, it featured CGI effects by local industry top dog Centro. It is seen as a milestone in Hong Kong special effects and garnered numerous awards.

With original leads Aaron Kwok and Ekin Cheng reprising their roles as warriors Cloud and Wind, respectively, plus Nicholas Tse ("Dragon Tiger Gate") and Twins member Charlene Choi ("Kung Fu Dunk") joining the cast, the film will begin production in April. Postproduction, which will cost about 35% of the budget, will likely take a year and a half. The film is tentatively scheduled for release in October 2009 during the Chinese national week holidays.

Golden Harvest, producer of the original, will distribute the action fantasy in Hong Kong, while Chengtien Entertainment and Golden Harvest will handle distribution in China. Universe Films Distribution will distribute in the rest of the world.