Review: Warriors of Future


As big of a fanatic of 70s-90s Hong Kong cinema as I am, I have a tremendous blind spot when it comes to more modern HK films. I’m aware of some and have seen all of Wong Kar-Wai’s films, but I would struggle to tell you about any major HK releases from the last five years or so. I even mistakenly thought Detective Chinatown 3 was an HK production simply because the lines have been blurred between mainland China and HK cinema.

While I will work to rectify this in the future, for the moment, I was intrigued by the Louis Koo-produced sci-fi action film Warriors of Future. There is this fascinating story about the marketing in China where the film initially flopped in the mainland and the campaign shifted towards showing Louis Koo being sad. I’m not sure if the guilt trip really worked, but when the movie eventually opened in Hong Kong, it went on to become the highest-grossing film of 2022 for the region.

All of that preamble is to say that I wasn’t sure what the hell to really expect. A lot of modern Chinese productions tend to be overwrought with CG effects in an attempt to ape Hollywood productions, but Hong Kong is different. It used to be an industry where stunt actors would put themselves in very real danger just to get an amazing shot.

Warriors of Future is definitely a more modern film in that sense, but it’s actually quite a bit of fun.

Warriors of Future | Official Trailer | Netflix

Warriors of Future
Director: Ng Yuen Fai
Release Date: August 5, 2022 (China), August 15, 2022 (HKIFF), December 2, 2022 (Worldwide Netflix)
Rating: TV-14

In what is the biggest mistake the film makes, the entirety of the background for Warriors of Future is given in an exposition dump right at the beginning. In 2055, the overuse of military robots has destroyed most of Earth and hastened the spread of global warming. With more natural disasters occurring every day and many children being born with birth defects, the government decides to fund a program that will shield each city from the elements by surrounding them in bubbles. Hilariously, these are called Skynets.

During the construction of a Skynet in district B16, a meteor crashes into the city and spawns an alien plant. That plant not only overruns the city but births creatures that start to ravage the people and threaten to dismantle humanity. This plant is dubbed Pandora (because allegory), but it’s not entirely deadly. The plant actually begins to purify the air in B16. Now, scientists are scrambling to discover a way to utilize Pandora to save the planet and restore civilization to the beauty it once had.

So right away, that’s a lot. That could be an entire film unto itself, but Warriors of Future would rather get to the part where Louis Koo and his fellow actors are battling aliens and robots than actually spend time on worldbuilding. That’s not necessarily a bad decision, but it does make the first 20-ish minutes of this film feel rushed and bland. It’s not exactly clear why you should care about anything.

Warriors of Future

© Intercontinental Film Distributors/Netflix

Louis Koo stars as Tai Loi -hilariously renamed Tyler in the Netflix version-, a soldier working for the ASU that is tasked with neutralizing the Pandoran threat in B16. Alongside Tai Loi is Cheng Chung-Sang (Sean Lau), a commander that refuses to accept that robots are the future of military warfare. In some brief bits of dialogue, we learn that Tai Loi is so committed to stopping the aliens because he lost his daughter due to an illness caused by global warming. Cheng, on the other hand, doesn’t want to let the government decide what is right or wrong.

With constant rainfall causing Pandora to grow stronger and a big storm forecasted in the next few days, a plan is put in motion to neutralize the threat once and for all. Led by Colonel Tam (Carina Lau), she explains their mission of injecting the pistil of Pandora to reprogram it and how dangerous the stakes are. On the flip side, if the mission fails, Plan B is to bomb the city and sacrifice 160,000 lives in the process. Obviously, Tai Loi and Cheng aren’t happy but are willing to risk their lives to save others.

It’s all a bit derivative of other alien invasion films with a ham-fisted message of choosing your own destiny. At one point, a character alludes to Invasion of the Body Snatchers and how that film ends with humanity dying. Instead of dying, though, Tai Loi and crew have some alien ass to kick.

© Intercontinental Film Distributors/Netflix

I’m skipping over bits of setup here, but you really don’t need to learn all of the characters before going into this film. Even after watching it, the things sticking with me aren’t the acting, writing, or even the general direction of the film. What stands out is how a film was made with roughly a quarter of the budget of a Marvel movie and it looks 10 times better.

I’m not kidding when I say that, either. The CG effects in this film are pretty decent. You’ll never once believe you’re looking at real-life and the very odd transitions between actors in a costume to then being fully animated are jarring, but this looks so much better than a majority of modern Hollywood action movies. When things really get into gear, everything is CG and the consistency is there to stop you from nitpicking.

The film also has some incredible forward momentum that never lets up. There are jumps in logic where characters suddenly appear as if ordained by God, but the frenetic action doesn’t give you a lot of breathing room to really focus on that. I’m also not exactly sure why the action tends to be framed in spinning takes (At points, the camera does 360s in random directions), but it’s all very well thought out and executed.

© Intercontinental Film Distributors/Netflix

Towards the end, there is some massive struggle on a highway where a giant robot is chasing down our heroes and it is really thrilling. It absolutely looks like a video game (in fact, it reminds me almost exactly of Binary Domain), but it’s just plain fun. Try as I might to be a pedantic ass and shit all over this movie, I just gave up by this point and embraced the lunacy.

You can possibly complain about the art direction here as it all has a kind of generic sci-fi look. It’s certainly expensive looking, but then it also looks heavily inspired by things such as Dead Space, Ghost in the Shell, Destiny, and Call of Duty. On the very same day as its US release, a game called The Callisto Protocol was released and the suits of armor here are practically identical to that.

As a short aside, make sure to change the audio to Cantonese. For whatever reason on Netflix, the film defaults to Mandarin and I was very confused by that. A Hong Kong production should be in Cantonese and the film was very obviously shot in that language. Certain actors may have been speaking Mandarin as the lip-syncing occasionally matches, but it otherwise is not correct. Netflix has done things like this in the past with foreign films (this year’s RRR is available only in Hindi despite being filmed in Telugu), so I thought it was a mistake.

© Intercontinental Film Distributors/Netflix

When you do have everything straight, the acting is quite good. Louis Koo has made a name for himself over the last few decades as one of Hong Kong’s most charismatic actors and his natural charm is on display here. The plotting might be incredibly basic and devoid of depth, but there are moments with Tai Loi’s daughter that just hit really well. Despite all of that exposition in the beginning, we get short flashbacks to her time in the hospital and they are edited effectively.

It’s those small moments that show a lot of thought was put into Warriors of Future. None of the ideas are truly unique and I can’t point to a single moment where I saw something that truly blew me away, but this isn’t some slapdash film. Action-first is its MO, but then there are layers here.

I mentioned above how the lines between mainland China and HK cinema have become blurred, but Warriors of Future is almost a pro-Hong Kong anthem. There’s a sense of antiestablishmentarianism that permeates the proceedings. I’m not sure if this specifically relates to the HK film industry, but Pandora can be seen as China slowly infecting Hong Kong while Tai Loi and his crew represent locals from Hong Kong. They are firmly against letting the plant ravage the city they love.

© Intercontinental Film Distributors/Netflix

As the film moves on, Colonel Tam becomes more and more adamant about enacting Plan B, but Tai Loi won’t let that happen. He is firmly for sticking with the original plan and that plays like an allegory for Hong Kong’s independence. They will never give up the battle for their freedom. You could also see it as cooperation with China, as the plan isn’t to destroy Pandora, but reprogram it. This isn’t revolutionary stuff, by the way, but it gives more depth to Warriors of Future than its alien invasion setting might imply.

By the end of the film, I had grown to really enjoy Warriors of Future. It certainly won’t go on to become Louis Koo’s most accomplished film, but it may just become his most memorable. Having turned in record profits in Hong Kong (possibly due to Hong Kongers embracing the fact that the film bombed in China), it’s clear that something about this movie is striking a chord with audiences. Maybe people just want a dumb action movie during these harsh times.

Whatever the case, I think the biggest triumph of Warriors of Future is that it proves you don’t need massively inflated budgets to make decent films. Hollywood should really take note here as I’m getting tired of $350 million+ films that have the depth of a puddle and surprisingly deficient action.




What it lacks in originality, Warriors of Future makes up for with bombastic action, solid performances, and surprisingly decent CGI.

Peter Glagowski
Peter is an aspiring writer with a passion for gaming and fitness. If you can't find him in front of a game, you'll most likely find him pumping iron.