Metamorphosis (异变暴龙, Mutant Tyrannosaurus) begins with a cleaning woman working in the Genge Group Secret Lab. We know it’s a secret lab because the film tells us. Being the dedicated type the woman cleans everywhere her swipe card gives her access to, including a cage full of scraps of meat. It doesn’t take long for the T Rex that left those scraps to appear and eat her before wandering out the open door to look for dessert.
Meanwhile, endangered animal expert Liang (Gao Shuang, Furious Golden Buddha, Dragon Fist Kid) and his team are trying to trap a giant snake to bring it back to the Endangered Animal Hospital. There he learns it’s been genetically altered, something his ex Shi Wen had had asked him to investigate but he declined because “I really have no interest in genes”.
This changes his mind and he goes to see her, arriving just in time for them to find the remains of the T Rex’s meal and for Captain Zhao the company’s security chief to forbid them to call the police. And then the creature shows up and informs everyone that it is in charge.
While you can’t fault Metamorphosis for not getting to the action quickly enough, the film certainly can be faulted for a serious lack of logic. Giving the cleaning lady the ability to unlock a cage with a Tyrannosaurus? Or Liang letting Shi Wen go by herself to rescue Yi Bo (Wang Xingchen, Anger Chase, Fighting the Rivers and Lakes Again. because she’s in the women’s locker room? And the two of them trying to get her robe from behind the monster rather than grabbing a towel or letting Liang see her naked? Better to be eaten alive than being immodest I guess.
But apart from these momentary lapses of reason Metamorphosis is a reasonably good, if overly obvious, Jurassic Park wannabe along the lines of The Asylum’s Triassic World. Liang’s outfit is even a copy of Chris Pratt’s from the Jurassic franchise. More importantly, however, the Tyrannosaurus is comprised of incomplete strands of T Rex DNA with the gaps filled in by genes from chameleons and crocodiles. Director Chen Liangyan (Classic of Mountains and Seas – Ingenious Garlic) does get some mileage out of this as the chameleon genes give the creature the ability to blend in with its surroundings and become invisible. It also gives it a tongue that can catch prey, although that ability isn’t used nearly enough.
The effects are, as expected, mostly CGI and vary quite a bit. The Tyrannosaurus is mostly well done. The exceptions are a scene where it has a victim dangling from its tongue and another using what looks like a plastic prop. The snakes, there are two of them, however, leave a bit to be desired. As does some oversized machinery we see at one point. Overall Metamorphosis falls around the middle of the pack when it comes to these kinds of films.
Most of this comes into play in Metamorphosis’ final act which delivers snake on snake violence, corporate goons, double-crosses, snake on dinosaur violence, a Ripley vs Queen Alien style showdown and a score that sounds like outtakes from one of Dream Theater’s instrumental tracks. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it is a lot of fun. And really, isn’t that all we ask from a kaiju film like Metamorphosis?
And despite some questionable plotting and variable effects, that is what we get. Metamorphosis might not be on the same level as Snakes and Crocodile Island but it’s well ahead of Abyssal Spider and Varanus Priscus in the Chinese creature feature ranks. And if you’re looking for more monster mayhem, FilmTagger has that covered.
Metamorphosis is currently free to watch on Youku’s YouTube channel.