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''狄仁杰之通天帝國'' (English title: ''Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame'') is a 2010 People's Republic of China/Republic of China co-production. The title character is loosely based on the real-life Tang Dynasty magistrate Di Renjie, who also inspired the ''Literature/JudgeDee'' novels and short stories. The film is not based on those novels however, and relies primarily on ''[[{{Wuxia}} wuxia]]'' action.

The plot takes place shortly before the ascension of Wu Zetian, China's first female emperor, to the throne. An enormous Buddha statue is being built for the occasion when the director of its construction mysteriously bursts into flames and dies. The investigators are baffled until Wu Zetian calls on Detective Dee, a man whom she imprisoned eight years previously for opposing her rule. With the imperial agent [[ActionGirl Shangguan]] [[LoveInterest Jing'er]], and policeman [[PragmaticHero Pei Donglai]], Dee [[YouHave48Hours has until the coronation starts]] to solve the mystery of the phantom flame.

A second movie with the subtitle ''Rise of the Sea Dragon'' was released in 2013. It is a {{Prequel}}, with {{time shifted actor}}s for returning characters (Dee and Shatuo) except Empress Wu, focusing on Dee's first case in Luoyang. With the residing police chief [[InspectorJavert Yuchi]] in his way, and a new ally [[NaiveNewcomer Shatuo]] on his side, Dee must come to the rescue of [[WorldsMostBeautifulWoman Ruiji]], who is seemingly targeted by both a nomadic cult and a reptilian creature from the depths. Unfortunately the capital has an even bigger concern. [[{{Kaiju}} Big enough to sink an Imperial fleet, as a matter of fact.]]
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!!This movie has examples of:

* AbsurdlySpaciousSewer: The Ghost City is supposed to be what remains of the original city, which sank into the ground as centuries went by. But it looks like a maze of giant, flooded underground canyons.
* ActionGirl: Jing'er might just be the most capable fighter in the entire film.
* AntiVillain: The Empress gives China peace, order, and prosperity - the hard way.
* ArtisticLicenseShips: The ships in the Luoyang harbor look unrealistic for the time period.
* AsLongAsItSoundsForeign: The Ummayyad ambassador speaks modern-day Spanish that Chinese audiences obviously wouldn't know/care about.
* BittersweetEnding: Dee's heart has found peace, but [[spoiler: his love-interest and CowboyCop partner are killed, his best friend betrayed him, and the less-than-virtuous Empress Wu Zetian has succeeded the throne. Oh, and he can't go outside in the sun ever again, or else he'll burst into flames!]]
* BlackAndGreyMorality: Wu Zetian is hardly a virtuous ruler, and none knows it better than Dee, who has spent eight years in jail for opposing her rule. But the conspirators are worse.
* BlindIdiotTranslation: At times the English subtitles leave much to be desired, with imperfect grammar and the use of some peculiar jargon.
* BodyguardCrush: Jing'er is ''quite'' [[LesYay devoted]] to Wu Zetian.
* CallingYourAttacks: Dee, when wielding his sword-breaking mace.
* ChekhovsGun: [[spoiler:A 66-yard-tall one.]]
** Jing'er doesn't like anyone touching her neck.
* ConspicuousCGI: Occasionally. The TransformationSequence comes to mind.
* CostumePorn: Dear lord, the Empress!
* DangerouslyCloseShave: When Dee hands Jing'er a razor and asks her to give him a shave, she obviously considers slicing his throat. Dee has to dissuade her by quipping "My beard is up here".
* DeadManWriting: The last clue, a buckle indicating where an important document has been hidden, is given to Dee by a dying man.
* DeadpanSnarker: Dee, of course. Donglai occasionally strays into this territory when he's teasing Jing'er.
* {{Determinator}}: After getting impaled multiple times by spring-loaded javelins, [[spoiler:Jing'er]] still manages to drag a grown man into the tree tops to hide, then survive the long journey on horseback to the palace before finally bleeding to death.
* DoomedByCanon: Whoever started the plot has zero chance of succeeding, because history records that Wu Zetian did indeed become Empress of China.
* DwindlingParty: By the time the movie ends only a handful of named characters survive.
* DyeingForYourArt: Donglai's actor even bleached his eyelashes to play a convincing albino.
* EverythingsBetterWithSpinning: Dee's mace has a rotating part which allows him to break metal when spun.
* [[TheExoticDetective Exotic Detective]]
* FemmeFatale: The Empress, particularly in her younger years, but she's still got it. Jing'er tries to be one.
* GenreRoulette: Is this a {{wuxia}} movie, historical drama, film noir detective story, political thriller, or absurdist comedy? Being that this is a Tsui Hark work, [[MathematiciansAnswer yes]].
* GodSaveUsFromTheQueen: Although the entire movie hinges on Dee's efforts to protect the Empress, she is arguably as big of a villain as the assassins.
* GreatDetective: Dee is based on an actual historical figure, but his status as an ancient Chinese Sherlock Holmes is based on the 18th century novel ''狄公案'', and in the West on Robert van Gulik's JudgeDee stories.
* HeroicAlbino: Pei Donglai is this, albeit leaning toward AntiHero status.
* HistoricalDomainCharacter: Di Renjie and Wu Zetian were real people, and Jing'er is based on a real person. Probably none of them were capable of WireFu in real life, however.
* HotBlooded: Jing'er and Donglai, in contrast to the cool and pragmatic Dee.
* ImprobableAge: Donglai seems quite young for a minister of justice, though his (much older) superior did die suddenly in the middle of an investigation.
* InterestingSituationDuel: A duel in an underground lake, for starters. [[spoiler: Dee's fight with Shatuo where he can't be in the sunlight or he'll burst into flame.]]
* ImpossiblyCoolWeapon: Dee's mace has a rotating part which generates vibrations which allow him to find the weak point in an opponent's weapon as he sweeps it along the blade, so that he can strike there and break it. The mace was given to him by the previous Emperor, and symbolizes his role as a detective and truth-finder.
** Also the flying chainsaw robot (it's actually a puppet).
* JerkWithAHeartOfGold: Donglai is short-tempered, violent, and at one point makes a young widow faint by yelling at her, but he is shown to be very protective of Jing'er and one of the least corrupt characters in the story.
* LargeHam: The cop from the beginning. Also the [[BeleagueredAssistant unfortunate]] [[NoIndoorVoice rea]][[MilkingTheGiantCow der]] in the morgue.
* ManOnFire: The "phantom flame".
* MaybeMagicMaybeMundane: The whole movie veers between rational historical fiction, and its own special brand of very, very weird.
* MonumentalDamage / WeaponizedLandmark: If [[spoiler: almost 200 feet of statue-shaped metal]] doesn't count, nothing does.
* ObfuscatingDisability: Dee fakes being blind while in prison.
* PerfectPoison: Since it [[PoisonIsCorrosive causes you to spontaneously combust]], there's not much forensic evidence left behind.
* PoisonedWeapons: Dee and Jing'er are attacked with a bevvy of poisoned arrows which provide an important clue.
* PunnyName: Donkey Wang. Yes. Technically, it's [[TheyCallMeMisterTibbs Dr. Donkey Wang.]]
* RedemptionEqualsDeath: [[spoiler:Shangguan Jing'er]].
* RecycledInSpace: Could be described as "''[[Film.SherlockHolmes Sherlock Holmes]]'' [[foldercontrol]]

[[folder: IN CHINA ]]
". Wu Zetian even acts a lot like Queen Victoria does in such stories.
* SinisterMinister: The mysterious Chaplain, who apparently doubles as both a prophet and assassin for the Empress.
* SlapSlapKiss: Dee and Jing'er, almost as soon as he's out of prison. A subversion, as this is staged as a way of getting close to him, which of course he sees right through.
* SpontaneousHumanCombustion: The Phantom Flame. Of course, careful investigation shows that it's not at all spontaneous.
* TheresNoKillLikeOverkill: The number of arrows fired at Dee and Jing'er would sink a boat.
* UnresolvedSexualTension: Jing'er with virtually everyone. But mainly Dee.
* VoluntaryShapeshifting: An important plot point hinges on a certain acupressure point that allows you to completely alter the shape of your face.
* WeHaveReserves: The Empress tells Jing'er that to get power and stay in power you have to be willing to sacrifice anyone. ''Anyone.''
* WholesomeCrossdresser: [[spoiler: Jing'er is the High Priest]].
* WireFu: How most characters get around.
** In-universe, the heroes fight what looks like a flying robot with buzzsaws. It's revealed that it's actually a puppet, and they attack the wires holding it up.
* {{Wuxia}}: A fine modern example.
* YouHave48Hours: Dee has until the coronation to solve the crime.

!!''Rise of the Sea Dragon'' has examples of:

* AmplifiedAnimalAptitude: As if acknowledging this trope, the special horse given to Dee has a bad gallop speed to balance out its ability to ''[[ChekhovsGun swim]]''.
* BodyHorror: How have the Dondo created so many parasites? With ''live human hosts!''
* BunnyEarsLawyer: Shatuo's sensei Imperial Physician Wang, who's grafted what looks like an orangutan hand in place of his own one for whatever reason, and the go-to miracle worker in this movie.
* CallForward: The movie ends with Dee earning the Dragon Taming Mace.
* [[spoiler:{{Kaiju}}]]: One of the two creatures tagged with the name of Sea Dragon.
* LateArrivalSpoiler: The second movie, ''Rise of the Sea Dragon'', is a {{Prequel}} instead of a regular sequel. [[spoiler:Granted Dee survives the end of the first movie, but anything he does after this is going to be significantly harder... in the daytime.]]
* TheMole: [[spoiler:[[MistreatmentInducedBetrayal That one constable who's been stuck with guard duty for years]].]]
* NiceHat: The Empress has some truly awe-inspiring headgear.
* NonIndicativeName: Both the reptilian stalking Ruiji and [[spoiler:the giant manta ray]] are called "Sea Dragon" at some point.
* SherlockScan: Dee's CharlesAtlasSuperpower, allowing him to find an OddNameOut on the roster and thus target Shatuo as a potential ally.
* ShoutOut:
** One of the Dondo fighters wields what can be described as a [[MasterOfTheFlyingGuillotine flying guillotine.]]
** Yuan Zhen's fate [[spoiler:is equal parts SwampThing and the Film/CreatureFromTheBlackLagoon.]]
** [[spoiler:The giant manta homages the Columbia Tristar Film/{{Godzilla|1998}}, from its diet of fish to tearing up a dock. It also channels the Kraken from ''Film/PiratesOfTheCaribbeanDeadMansChest'' when it tears into navy ships.]]
* SoBeautifulItsACurse: Ruiji, who's either targeted by a dozen suitors only after her maidenhead, or getting sacrificed to the Sea Dragon, or targeted by ''the Empress herself'' simply because her birth country's at war with China.
* SuperDrowningSkills: Everyone ribs Dee for being afraid of water, he claims he doesn't know how to swim.
* TimeShiftedActor: Dee and Shatuo.
* ToiletHumor: The antidote to the parasites? Eunuch piss.
* WasOnceAMan: [[spoiler:Yuan Zhen is forcibly mutated into the Film/CreatureFromTheBlackLagoon.]]
* YouHave48Hours: Yuchi is given 10 days to solve the mystery, Dee pleads to get a delay, and is given 24 hours.
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