Veteran action star Jet Li and action director Tony Ching are expanding their repertoire into the children's fairy tale, but with an adult audience also in mind.
Their latest movie "The Sorcerer and the White Snake" made its world premier out of competition at the Venice Film Festival on Friday.
The movie is based on a classic Chinese fairy tale that has entered the popular consciousness as seamlessly as Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty in the West, with cast members saying they recalled hearing it first from their grandmothers.
But Ching said he sought to put a modern twist on the fable by mixing action with special effects.
"The idea was to blend Chinese tradition, which is martial arts, with Western technology," Ching said in an interview.
His goal was to make a movie that would appeal to adults by emphasizing the film's central love story.
"I think first it's a children's fairy tale, but it also is about the new generation who are willing to give up everything for love," he said.
In the film, Li plays a sorcerer whose job it is to subdue demons — good or evil — and slay monsters. The White Snake, a benign demon played by Eva Huang sporting an elegant computer-generated white snake tail, takes a risk for love, using her powers to become human in her pursuit of a young herbalist whom she spies gathering flowers.
The action takes place against a fantasy-filled landscape of mystical craggy peaks and a cauldron of molten lava where Jet's sorcerer destroys an evil demon.
Ching said the challenge was to combine the action with computer graphics.
"We did not want to jump from one to the other," but fuse them, Ching said.
The film is set for worldwide distribution, and Huang suggested it would help the rest of the world understand China better.
"I think people who want to know China should watch this movie," she said.