The Antarctic Octopus (2023) Review
The Antarctic Octopus (Extremely Cold Place, 极寒之地) begins on a typical day at the TGC Commercial Enterprise Antarctic Transportation Station, the drivers are hanging around working on their trucks, working out or in the case of Han Lian (Xu Jia, Assault, Bravery), saving Rosa (Chen Ruoxi, Youth Must Be Early, Dragon Cave Treasure Hunt,) from the clutches of Tiger (Jagu, Killer Bee Invasion, Pack of Wolves) whois less than subtle about his interest in her.
As it turns out she’s the CEO’s daughter and is heading to the research facility 400 kilometres away. And as a reward for his bravery, Han gets to drive her there, something he’s not happy about. Especially when she starts demanding a detour so she can take pictures of penguins, then unhooks her safety line to get a closer look and falls through the ice.
Writer Wu Zhigang and director Zhao Jinyi (Treasure Hunt Erlong Lake, Crocodile Island) get The Antarctic Octopus off to a reasonable start with a brief prologue involving a disaster that still haunts Han’s nightmares. From there it’s all by the numbers. a smattering of macho cliches before the no-nonsense Han has to play chauffeur to the spoiled rich girl and comic relief mechanic Qiangzi (Zhu Tianfu, Joy Hunter, Medicine is Medicine).
It doesn’t get any more original either, the current head of the research station Liu Dao (Yuan Bu, Bright Sword: Battle in the Valley of Crying Ghosts, Company of Warriors) is the brother of the man Han couldn’t save in the prologue. There’s some very unorthodox research going on at the facility and, of course, disaster will strike again.
The Antarctic Octopus itself is quite the creature with the ability to blend into its surroundings to the point of invisibility, regenerative powers that would make Wolverine jealous and it’s smart enough to use a computer. Unfortunately, it takes forever for it to become a real factor in the film which for the first hour is heavy on revenge plots and industrial espionage. That’s right, they have a super octopus and a mad scientist who’s got octopus genes spliced into his own and it’s not until the last half hour that they use any of it.
The last half hour is full of eight-legged action, but it makes little use of the creature’s special abilities until the last few minutes, having it mostly slither around the hallways after the characters while its little friends occasionally pop out of a convenient pipe to menace people. The film wastes all the time and talk used on making the creature out to be something special and turns it into just another oversized critter. And if you’re wondering about the red octopus that shows up near the end, your guess is as good as mine.
If the script for The Antarctic Octopus is bad, the effects manage to be even worse. Almost all of the shots of the creature are not only unconvincing, they also border on laughably bad. It feels like the film was thrown together quickly with a first draft script and effects that were slapped together over the weekend after filming was finished. There’s a scene of the creature trying to squeeze through a doorway that’s easily one of the worst effects I’ve seen in years. It makes some of Mark Polinia’s work look high-tech.
Coming from the director of Crocodile Island, The Antarctic Octopus is a massive disappointment. It’s devoid of suspense, interesting characters or decent effects, but it does have what sounds like a Chinese version of country music over the end credits. And that is the most horrifying thing about the entire film.
The Antarctic Octopus is available free to watch on Youku’s YouTube channel and embedded below. But honestly, even for free it’s not much of a bargain.