Remember way back before Avatar came out, when news of its behind-the-scenes woes, budget headaches, and unoriginal plotline had some commentators predicting one of the most expensive flops in cinema history? And then how when it actually came out, audiences were so dazzled by the gorgeous world of Pandora that it actually went on to become the highest-grossing movie of all time?

Yeah, that probably won’t happen with Empires of the Deep, a troubled and terrible-looking 3D epic that was $130 million and three years in the making. The Chinese-American co-production stars Olga Kurylenko as the the queen of the mermaids, or something, who gets embroiled in an underwater war between various sea creatures and sea monsters, or something. The trailer emphasizes fancy visuals over storytelling and character, but the visuals aren’t even that good to begin with. Watch the video after the jump.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0p6iUke_2M

There are very brief moments here when the visuals actually brush up against the level of professional polish they’re aiming for, but most of this is on par with a particularly expensive Syfy Channel original movie. And Kurylenko is as gorgeous as ever, but the costumes she’s in look more appropriate for a Halloween party than a big-budget production.

The problems extend to hilariously flat dialogue and apparently nonexistent story as well. Who are these sea creatures and why are they fighting? How are the mermaids involved, and why does Kurylenko look so grim? What’s the deal with that blond guy? Were we supposed to be so impressed by the CG that we wouldn’t notice that there doesn’t seem to be an actual plot?

Empires of the Deep had a notoriously rough go of it behind the scenes, starting out as a passion project by Chinese real estate tycoon Jon Jiang. The first-time producer wrote the script himself and enlisted the help of nearly a dozen Hollywood screenwriters for the rewrites, and then hired Pitof (helmer of the disastrous Catwoman) to direct. Pitof left before production began, and several other filmmakers came and went before Michael French wound up with final credit.

There’s no reason to believe China won’t eventually become a moviemaking powerhouse, as Jiang hopes, but Empires of the Deep will not be the film to make that leap. Especially seeing as there’s no stateside distribution yet, and there isn’t likely to be anytime soon.

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