Sima Cong’s (Liu Lincheng, Snake Island, Water Monster) father vanished when he was a young boy. Golden Spider City (黄金蜘蛛城) opens with a mock funeral being held for the presumably dead explorer. Now thirty and an orphan he’s followed the same path as his father. That is until h and his girlfriend Lisa (Sasha) are kidnapped by Thai billionaire Lord Xiang and he’s forced to retrieve the Resurrection Pearl for him.
Retrieving that isn’t a problem, but it’s also not Xiang’s real objective either. the Resurrection Pearl is said to be the key to entering The Golden City and finding the secret of eternal life, something that would be invaluable to a wealthy man dying of cancer. In fact, he’s already staged one expedition to find it already, the one that Sima’s father was on when he disappeared.
Golden Spider City starts off with elements found in many other adventure films, priceless artifacts, lost cities and lost fathers, a monster to battle and a rich villain who’ll do anything to cheat death. And like many of them, it runs into problems almost immediately. And I don’t just mean the lousy CGI.
Golden Spider City is going along in an acceptable if overly familiar manner until what should be a dramatic highlight. A golden coffin, connected to the lost city is wheeled out, and as everyone argues it opens itself and a mummy emerges. Instead of playing the scene for horror or suspense, the film goes into an extended slapstick sequence that is totally out of place and not very funny.
This not only ruins that scene but continues on through what should have been another important scene, the revelation that the mummy is actually Sima Hui (Chen Mengqi, The Fatal Mission, God of Lost Fantasy) who is not only alive but now looks younger than his son. Instead, we get an irate Cong calling him a liar and brandishing a piece of cucumber like a knife.
Much of the rest of Golden Spider City unfortunately stays in this kind of humorous mode. Director Dai Yilin (Giant Python, Mohist Mechanism) seems to be trying to imitate the lighthearted style of Jackie Chan’s early films, but he isn’t up to the task. And the cast doesn’t have the acting, or fighting, skills to pull it off either. This is a shame because once the film finally gets to the Golden City itself the plot becomes such a wild mix of genres it really can’t be played any other way.
The plot turns into such an insane mashup of human villainy, crashed spacecraft, death cults, monsters, aliens and bargain bin Indiana Jones/Lora Croft action that it really can’t be played straight. It’s like an even crazier version of the Franco Nero film Top Line or the many Italian knockoffs of Raiders of the Lost Ark. And while that could have been a lot of fun, Golden Spider City only occasionally matches their endearing silliness with moments like a trip down a giant underground waterslide and a scene where they break the water’s surface to find themselves somehow above dry land and hang there cartoon style for a moment before falling.
There are enough entertaining moments scattered throughout Golden Spider City, mostly at the very beginning and towards the end that, combined with an ending that’s out of character for these films, it’s probably worth watching while it’s available for free. But it’s also frustrating to see so many opportunities to do something really cool go to waste.
Golden Spider City is currently available as a free watch on Youku’s YouTube channel and embedded under the trailer. And if you’re looking for more cinematic tombs to raid, FilmTagger has suggestions.