Director: Yimou Zhang
Starring Cast: Jet Li, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Maggie Cheung, Zhang Ziyi, and Donnie Yen
Reel Reviews Rating:
Since the international success of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, over recent years Chinese swordfighting films have suddenly become more mainstream. Whereas for decades they were considered campy and cheesy (it’s soooooo obvious they’re on wires!), loved by only the biggest film geeks, these days Chinese swordfighting films have been elevated to the level of Artistic Foreign Independent Film. Or something like that.
But I digress.
The other night my boyfriend and I watched Hero. It stars Asian It Boy Jet Li, Donnie Yen (who strangely resembles Lou Diamond Philips), Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Maggie Cheung, and of course, Asian It Girl Zhang Ziyi. Since the movie was made in China, you obviously have to deal with subtitles. Big deal. I prefer subtitles to dubbed voices any day. You lose so much in the movie when you hear emotionless actors speaking in English over the original actors’ voices. The story takes place long, long ago, when China was still composed of several warring states. A mysterious man called Nameless is brought before the ruthless King of Qin to tell his story of how he defeated the three dangerous assassins- Sky, Broken Sword, and Flying Snow. What’s interesting about the plot is that there are several perspectives to the story, somewhat similar to the classic film Rashomon. What really happened between Nameless and the three assassins?
The best part about this movie aren’t the fight scenes, though they are way cool and kick ass. No, the best part about this film is that it’s visually stunning. The use of color is simply amazing, as each scene looks like a painting. One of my favorite scenes takes place in the forest. The two characters, both dressed in robes of the richest red, stand in a blanket of fallen gold leaves and as they fight, the leaves are rustled, enveloping the characters as they leap in the air or swish their swords. Another breathtaking scene doesn’t really involve a fight. It simply has two characters standing in front of a waterfall, their swords drawn. Both characters are wearing identical green robes, which look gorgeous against the waterfall background. The fight scenes themselves are indeed, spectacular. Often times it’s quite obvious that the actors are on wires since they practically fly through the air, but I think that it was intentional. I don’t know much about Chinese fighting cinema, but I think in many cases there is a small supernatural element -call it magical realism, if you like- in that warriors are different from the rest of us. It may also be that in Chinese cinema, swordplay is graceful, similar to a dance. The warriors aren’t just trying to kill each other. It is artistic, flowing, beautiful.
That being said, I felt that there were a couple of moments in the movie which I thought was a bit too artistic, too slow. In one scene, two characters were supposedly acting out the fight in their minds. Wha? So you see the two characters just standing there, facing each other with their eyes closed, juxtaposed with scenes of them fighting. It’s cool for a little bit, but I think that it went on for too long. It’s weird to sit there and watch a fight scene that, according to the plot of the movie, is only happening in the minds of the warriors.
Overall, I really enjoyed this movie. If you can, watch this on a large TV. If you watch this on a tiny laptop or portable DVD player, you won’t appreciate the movie’s beautiful scenes and use of color. To truly appreciate it, you need to see the movie on a large screen. We are fortunate enough to have a plasma TV, and hot damn- the colors just pop out, but not to the point where it sears your eyeballs. I highly recommend it.
8 Comments »
- B movies
- Film Adaptation
- John Hughes films
- Miyazaki Films
- Social Commentary
- Specific Actors