Ying xiong (2002)
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First, there are scenes of haunting beauty("Duel in the yellow forest" and "Turquoise autumn" to site a couple) that, like the best of impressionist paintings, are so affecting that you will forever see the world in a slightly different way having once beheld them.
Secondly, the overall message of the film is a provocative one. The claim is that a degree of human casualties and suffering may be the optimal path to a better world, especially when the alternative is equally brutal chaos. This is not a popular theme. It has become much more fashionable to be anti-war in all cases. And understandably so, since variations of this logic have often been used in the past to justify atrocities. But the film provides a crisp litmus test for avoiding delusion: action must be taken with a heart void of malice and an unwavering commitment to the broadest possible ultimate outcome of good for all. Can anyone live up to this standard? Several characters in the movie do, each in their own way. If the standard could be met, would the world be a better place? These are questions worth reflecting on that have not been dealt with, to this depth, in any film I'm aware of.
The imagery is unparallelled, simply draw-droppingly near perfect scenes, with bold and vibrant use of colour, symbolism and scenery. The fluent flow of the storyline, the delicate direction of the sword slicing action, the Chinese cultural concepts and the emotionally charged scenes between characters combine to produce a simply remarkable achievement.
This film has a few elements from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, but is far, far superior in every way. The sleek direction from Yimou Zhang is so perfectly done, just imagine two martial arts experts ensuing in battle against each other, defying the laws of physics as we know it, and yet following them in 360 degrees in slow motion as one deflects a droplet of rain from one sword to the other, at the same time spinning and leaping over water... simply beautiful. The attack sequences are also superbly set, with hundreds of thousands of the King's warriors in formation, simultaneously firing enough arrows into the city which literally cover the sky, in addition to the viewer being able to watch the journey of a single arrowhead aimed during this event. The build up to the attack along with the unnerving tune of a Chinese stringed instrument help you, as the audience, to become firmly engrossed in your seat.
The individual martial arts is also second to none, for myself particularly to see the distant shots of the whole battle sequence showing the true skills involved with fighting, such as footwork, perfect timing,aggression, counter attacks and defence. Jet Li shows he is truly the grand daddy of martial arts. I cannot stress enough how much you need this film in your life.
The colourful imagery imposed by the director will take your breath away with luscious, vivid, bright, wind-blown,draped backgrounds as the setting for the important progression of the story. Even the story itself is brought to the audience in such a way which ensures your undivided attention, as there are twists in the tales and hidden plots which do not develop until the end of the film.Even short individual scenes are memorable due to their sheer awesome display of skill and speed.
This film even holds a political message which is relevant to all times, especially in today's American-lead world dominance. This film has absolutely everything - including an extremely sexy young Ziyi Zhang who simply is the biggest hype to come out of china since SARS.
This film was released in 2002, but this is certainly one of my all time favourites and will probably be the best film I see all year. I have never been more enthusiastic to pursue films in this genre in my life. For more action type enthusiasts who like more gore and violence check out 'Ong Bak', but for people who appreciate a fuller, visionary piece of martial arts filming, this will leave you speechless.
Hero is a film that is beautiful in many aspects. The direction and photography is artsy without being pretentious. Every shot is worthy of being a work of art in itself. The language spoken is traditional mandarin, but oh, so easy to the ear, even though i couldn't understand every word. (I don't think Tony's and Maggie's voices were dubbed, but i could be mistaken). The main characters were very well acted out, especially that of the role of the Qin Emperor. Zhang Ziyi's character was largely insignificant though, so i think she's been put in to add some star power to the production. The fighting scenes are unusual by most standards, employing an interesting combination of CGI and real action. Some of the powers that the characters possess appear too amazing to be true, but remember that some of the fights only took place in the fighters' imagination. The music, though quite similar to that in CTHD, is appropriate, and sticks hauntingly to the back of your mind long after the movie is over.
I went to the cinema having heard some of the hype leading to the movie, but with no real knowledge of the storyline, and not expecting a lot. I think that helped me enjoy the movie more, because the way the story unfolded actually set me thinking and anticipating in a manner that i could not have had i known more about the storyline. The message at the end of the movie is simple, but certainly open for debate. In fairness, i don't think the director attempted to provide an answer, as to whether the decision made by the Nameless One was the correct one or not, but rather to ask questions. I'd better not give out too much here, but it certainly set me thinking about things for a little while after the show had ended. These days, any movie that can get me pondering after the credits go down has got to be pretty good.
Overall an excellent movie. I'm sure some areas could be better, but i can't think of any right now. Highly recommended.
Hero is two sides of a tale as presented by Nameless (Jet Li), a mere Prefect who defeated three deadly assassins, and the King of Qin (Daoming Chen), the man the assassins wished to kill. Nameless weaves his heroic though modest story of how he killed the assassins, but the King remains unconvinced, spinning his own version of how he believed events unfolded.
Director Yimou Zhang takes us through Nameless' story first, spreading the battle sequences thick, allowing them to take their own time. In the King's version, certain battles are then revised, which is remarkably brave considering that some battles are utter fabrications. In one such fictitious fight, in a faultlessly designed set, Nameless and Sky (Donnie Yen) close their eyes and fight out the battle within their minds. Screen time is being spent lavishly on showing how two characters contemplated a fight, whilst fighting each other in a battle that never occurred. It is confusing certainly, but perhaps Zhang wished for his audience to get lost in the plot's design so that they would not question the warrantability of half of the battle sequences, which make up most of the film.
Yet, it is difficult to ponder these details when they are made so utterly insignificant when viewing such a spectacle. The sheer beauty of the battles, the gentle floating of the assassins as they fly around their arenas (which range from a forest full of orange leafed trees, crisp leaves falling down to the ground like rain, to the crystal clear and calm of a mountain lake), the costumes of characters at varying stages in the story line (red for passion, green for youth, white for truth, blue for love), the amazing army scenes which feature thousands of arrows being fired into the sky to create a black cloud that descends right on top of the camera, all these elements combine to produce a faultlessly perfect image on the screen, each frame a worthy photograph that gently reminds you why cinema is the greatest art form of the twentieth century.
And characterisation is not lost in this beauty as one may have feared. Despite the irritating two dimensional performance of Zhang Ziyi as Moon, the other actors carry off fine performances, especially Tony Leung Chiu Wai as Broken Sword and Daoming Chen as the King. Their performances are especially credible as they are often drowning in the memories of the King and Nameless - they need to change slight mannerisms in order to reflect whose mind they are now in.
The script too is of an impressively high standard. The moments of clarity that the warriors feel are experienced by the audience also, and there are some very informed outlooks of the emptiness of warfare, communicating that to achieve peace, sometimes war is the only option. These messages of course seem fitting in our current times, underlining how ancient some of the methods of our governing body truly are.
Hero is undoubtedly a most beautiful and awe inspiring film. What it lacks in plot substance, it makes up for with structure and script. It elaborates on the ground work created by 'Crouching Tiger' and is an experience that I would encourage you to seek out, as long as you are willing to submit to the film and let it guide you through its world on its own terms.
I viewed this film with high expectations. People were comparing it with Crouching Tiger and I really enjoyed that film. Within the first 10 minutes you understand why the comparisons are made. The cinematography, editing, music and special effects are similar. The stories, however, are quite different, and I found the story to be better than the one in Crouching Tiger.
The story is about an assassin who concocts a plan to kill a king who had been trying to conquer his home land in pre-unified China. His assassination plan requires him to get close enough to the king to strike him dead. The movie shows the assassin's plan through a series of flashbacks, and culminates with the assassin getting his chance to kill the king.
The beauty of this film is the how the assassin becomes a "Hero". I won't spoil how he achieves this, but that is what made the film great for me. It made the film more than just a visual and musical masterpiece. It also made it more than just a Kung Fu picture. It actually added a decent plot to the film which made it worth while. Honestly, I was just expecting a good Kung Fu picture. Hero is actually a great overall movie which just happens to accent the film with some of the best Kung Fu action in recent years.
Definitely the best movie that I have seen this year. I hope it wins big at the awards ceremonies. It was impressive.
I guess we have CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON to thank for making the wu xia world bankable again, and generating the interest and investment required to bring a project of this stature together. There's no doubt that the US Market was a major target, and US$ went into the funding. Given this it's a tragedy that Yimou let Miramax get their paws on it and effectively ruin any chances it had of major US success
Apart from Zhang Ziyi and the Tan Dun soundtrack (a terrible choice no doubt enforced by US investors), CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON is not a good reference point by which to evaluate HERO. Much more appropriate is Wong Kar Wai's ASHES OF TIME, with which it shares two lead actors and a cinematographer. HERO is definitely more commercially oriented, but shares a beauty and philosophical richness with AOT, and a certain melancholy mood.
The story of HERO starts off quite simply, as Jet Li begins to recount his martial triumphs to the Emperor of Qin. The tale is told in flashbacks which revisit and re-evaluate the same events, elaborating on and changing the story as we learn more. It's reminiscent of Akira Kurosawa's RASHOMON, and is a great way of developing a mystery thriller. Zhang Yimou handles the building of the tale expertly, as one would expect from such a master film maker.
Zhang Yimou himself is such an accomplished cinematographer he hardly needed to hire somebody else for the job - but if there's anybody better than Yimou it's Christopher Doyle. I wonder how much conflict there was on set though, as I am sure each had very strong visions of how they wanted scenes to look. The result doesn't show any signs of it if such a conflict occured though, as the visual style seems exceptionally strong and focussed throughout. A large part of this is Yimou's use of bold colours to delineate the different sections of the story (The green, the red, the yellow, the blue, the white). With Emil Wada's stunning costumes and the great choice of locations, HERO is almost as rich in stunning imagery as ASHES OF TIME. It's a true work of art, harking back to Yimou's older films like SHANGHAI TRIAD and RAISE THE RED LANTERN - I'm really pleased to see him making such visual films again. The visuals are sometimes let down by some unconvincing CGI effects, unfortunately.
Zhang Yimou has never directed an action movie before, so people were clearly worried he wouldn't know what to do with the fight scenes that a wu xia movie needs more than anything else. It's been quite a few years since Ching Siu Tung has produced any really impressive work too, so I was rather worried - especially when I heard (from good authority) that Yimou had Ching had clashed on set. Apparently Zhang wanted more grounded, realistic kung fu, which really isn't Ching Siu Tung's thing (should have got Sammo or Yuen Wo Ping!). I guess Ching got the upper hand in the end, as the fight scenes are certainly not grounded or realistic - they're very much about the twirling and whirling and the graceful flying that Ching Siu Tung virtually defined. They're not as manic as he usually makes the action when he directs himself, though - a fact that sometimes makes the wirework look a bit awkward.
A real surprise is that the weakest fight scene of the film is that one that pits the two best martial artists together. Jet Li vs. Donnie Yen opens the film with some sword vs. spear action. There's some beautiful moments, but I felt the scene lacked impact and featured some awkward moves too. Oddly enough, the fight I enjoyed the most featured no real martial artistry at all - Maggie Cheung vs (well, you'll see) in a beautiful autumnal scene of falling leaves. I guess that's because Ching Siu Tung is really not working to his strengths when he tries to do "real" martial arts.
I had held off watching HERO for months, because as soon as I got the first released DVD (the DVD-5 from Guang Dong Face Ah) it was announced that the extended version of the film would be released in a few weeks. It's generally well known now that Zhang Yimou was persuaded to cut about 20 minutes from the film by the hatchet men at MiramAXE, who really must die first when the revolution comes. I figured the first time I see it I should see the best possible version, for maximum impact, so I was willing to wait. Well it's been 2 months now and the extended version is now indefinitely delayed due to legal issues, so I finally gave in and watched the DVD I'd had lying around for so long. Now that I've seen it I have to say I don't really see what another 20 minutes would add to the film - it seems quite complete and well paced at about 95 minutes. A little more development of Donnie Yen's character would be nice, but other than that it's hard to imagine what is missing. Longer action scenes maybe? Or perhaps just 20 minutes of Christopher Doyle's beautifully composed landscape shots, or close ups of Maggie Cheung dying.
I'm glad I waited to see the film anyway though, as it allowed all the hype and anticipation to die down. Unfortunately, when a film is as highly anticipated as this it's inevitable that there will be "backlash syndrome" as people feel let down that it wasn't the ultimate movie of all time they heard/hoped it would be (it was amusing to watch the reviews on CROUCHING TIGER swing between "incredible" and "awful" as hype waves ruined the experience for many, and I'm sure the same will happen with HERO).
Zhang Yimou is an extremely talented director in many respects, but perhaps the greatest is his ability to get incredible performances out of his cast. With such an illustrious cast on board he perhaps felt he didn't need to try as much though (or they weren't willing to listen), as the acting isn't as powerful as I had expected. It's still of a very high quality, but doesn't evoke the same strong emotions as some of the performances in ASHES OF TIME. Leung Chiu-Wai gets the top award for acting though, which will surprise few people. Zhang Ziyi only has a small part, but shows a lot of talent too - nice to see such skill in somebody that still has most of her career ahead of her. Of course, it was Zhang Yimou that discovered and nurtured her talent in THE ROAD HOME.
There are only two disappointments in HERO, for me. One is the special effects, which aren't up to the very latest standards. A little less use of CGI would have made it go a lot further (like in CTHD). The other is the soundtrack, which is really just much too similar to the Crouching Tiger soundtrack. It doesn't fit HERO as well, but it is still pretty evocative and effective - just too similar to CTHD.
I still intend to pick up the extended version of HERO when it's released, to see what Zhang Yimou's ideal vision for the film was. Even running shorter than he really wanted it's a mighty fine film though, and one I have no hesitation in recommending if anybody hasn't seen it yet. If MiramAXE ever do get round to releasing it in the US, I hope it does well.
Hero rewrites history's judgment on the movie's central figure, the Emperor Qin a ruthless leader who unified China through the most brutal means by depicting him as a tough but benevolent and misunderstood monarch, in the process also changing the story of the failed assassination attempt on him as well.
The historical Emperor Qin was known for his cruelty. The movie does refer to his practice of slaughtering entire villages. It is silent about the tortures he employed, the draconian legal code that involved the cutting off of limbs, his burning of books and suppression of schools of thought, or such incidents as the burying alive of hundreds of scholars who had objected to his rule.
The reason for the differences between the historical Emperor Qin and the movie's retelling may be found in the needs of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Even before unifying China, the then-King of Qin was hated and feared by both rivals and subjects alike. The neighboring state of Yan (replaced with "Zhao" in the movie) knew that the state of Qin aimed eventually to attack. Officials in the Yan kingdom hired an assassin to kill the King of Qin and help them escape imminent defeat. Jing Ke, the man selected for the job, had to find a method to bring himself close to the King to complete his mission. Pan Yuqi was a disgruntled Qin official who had fled to the state of Yan to escape from the King of Qin's tyrannical rule. He so hated the King of Qin that he offered to allow himself to be killed in order that Jing could gain access by bringing his head to the despot. Jing killed him and brought both Pan's head and a map of the state of Yan that the king coveted, hiding in it a dagger with which to assassinate the tyrant.
The King of Qin indeed allowed Jing Ke in his presence, and as the king opened the map offered to him, the assassin deftly procured the knife hidden in the map scroll. Unfortunately, Jing's initial thrust was not strong enough, grazing but not wounding the king. The king was then able to unsheathe his sword and parry any of Jing's successive thrusts. The assassin had no choice but to hurl his weapon at the monarch, but missed. He was later executed.
In Hero, the assassin (played by Jet Li) has the opportunity and the skill to dispatch the King, yet decides against it. After abandoning his decision to kill the king, he is executed, and then buried as a hero.
The Jet Li character is called "Nameless." Nameless chooses loyalty, and his own death, after a long conversation with the King of Qin. The king asserts that Nameless's quest is only negative, he acts out of hatred and revenge. He reveals that he himself is misunderstood, that the king's strength is used for the sake of unifying a great Chinese nation, a nation that will comprise "everything under heaven" (this crucial phrase was translated in English as "our land").
Like the Emperor Qin, Mao Zedong, upon winning the civil war against Chiang Kai Sheik, unified China. Mao was an open admirer of the Qin Emperor. This often-hated emperor came to be seen as a symbol for the Communist Party.
Since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, the Chinese Communist Party has used China's state controlled media to make the claim that the Communist Party exists for the sake of a great and unified China. Love of China and love of the Party are conflated, and love of China is taught to be of supreme importance.
Zhang's movie fits the CCP script very neatly. It appropriates China's history, its founding moment, the unification by the Emperor Qin, and uses that history to teach the very same lessons that CCP has taught: the need to give up individual claims (what we today call rights) for the sake of a great and powerful China under the rule of a strong leader (the CCP).
The leaders of the CCP wish the viewers of the movie to forget some other parallels with the Emperor of Qin. Similar to the Qin Emperor, the People's Republic of China is one of the most brutal and reviled governments in the world. Just as the Emperor of Qin suppressed Confucianism and persecuted those who objected to his rule, the CCP persecutes and tortures all of those with views and beliefs differing from the Party, including Falun Gong practitioners, house Christians, Uigher Muslims, union organizers, and democracy activists.
Overall, I didn't think the story was that appealing except for the good message at the end, about the good of all being more important than satisfying one's personal vengeance. Well, who could argue with that? As for the rest, perhaps being a Westerner unfamiliar with Eastern culture, it's harder for me to relate to the mind-set. I would be interested to know how Asians viewed this story, as opposed to similar films.
Sometimes I think these wild Crouching Tiger-like action scenes are too long and overdone, but at least in this film they were very original and, once again, more visuals feasts than anything else. On my second viewing, I discarded the subtitles and went with the dubbed version to concentrate more on the stunning look of this film. It paid off. Even if I don't quite follow everything, each scene is such eye-candy that you can't go wrong viewing this.
The easiest part of Hero was enjoying the scenery and the use of colors - really well-made and captivating. Hero is definately technically a very superb movie.
The harder part is the messages contained in the movie. The "individual desires vs. the collective good" and "competing loyalties" themes seem to have a strong resonance with east asian storytellers. Hero contains both of those dilemmas in it - and the solutions it poses doesn't go too well with some western viewers (a swedish reviewer called it "beautifully wrapped fascism").
I disagree with this; in the end both "Broken Sword", "Nameless" and King Shihuang (the king of the Qin kingdom, who the four warriors "Nameless", Broken Sword, Flying Snow, and Sky sets out to kill) puts "the collective" (the Qin kingdom, and eventually united China) ahead of "the individual".
However: King Shihuang's lust for power is NOT greater than he is willing to let himself get killed by Nameless after listening to Nameless' story about the sacrifice Broken Sword made (the throne room scene in the end of the movie). Shihuang is as much a "spoke in the wheel" as Nameless, Broken Sword and the two other warriors, hence I cannot interpret the messages as "fascistic" in any way. It's message (as I see it) is that the system sometimes comes ahead of the individual, however excellent those individuals are....AND that in the end it DOESN'T matter whether Shihuang or somebody else unites China, what matters is that it gets done.....
Kurosawa is here obviously in the story: it is half 'Rashomon' and half 'Ran.' But more important is Kurosawa's theory of film as a device to capture space. As with Parisian impressionist painters, the thing painted is not the point. It provides an origin only; the painting is about all the magical things that happen in the space between the subject and the viewers eye. The paintings, and Kurosawa's films are about that space.
Kurosawa invented the technique of shooting from very far away with a telephoto so as to flatten space, and at the same time creating (usually three) layers of space. Often, he would engage the space directly.
This masterful film is obsessive about the point and may be the most lush swim in dimensional space you are likely to find with the technology we have. Every shot is oriented around not the action, but the space that contains the action. Falling water, dust, lots of blown fabric and hair, feathers, arrows, even book tablets and those leaves! With lots of bamboo screens, all these are used to show the space, plus the usual fantastic mountains, clouds and forests - even at the end the Great Wall and of course the moving waves of soldiers and courtiers.
Many of the architectural shots are lifted from Welles' "Othello."
The matter is not lost in the copious allusions to mental space: the game of Go, music, calligraphy, politics, and love. All these are defined, exercised and conflated with one another in terms of space and the intrigue of space with a little more effort in the latter items on the list. Then, waving lamps are used to make 'murderous intent' spatial.
Unlike 'Crouching Tiger' which this resembles not at all, the camera is static, not dancing. Where Lee emphasized the ballet of the fight by engaging his camera, Zhang stands back in the space. Where Lee conceives fights not among the participants but their masters, Zhang shows us not the fights, but the battles among the true worlds of the fights - the worlds of different colors.
What we see could be the imaged Go game, or the imaged fight within it, or the imaged story Nameless tells, or the one the King tells and on and on with nestings of imaginations.
Every nation creates their own movie to explain themselves. We in the US seem to like more militarist stuff. Except for the thuggish motive (my war for my kind of peace), we would do well to have stories about stories like this one through four layers until they reflect back on the origin. Complex story space in rich real space.
If you are going to see this, you really must see 'In the Mood for Love,' which features Broken Sword and Flying Snow in something of the same relationship they have here. It is one of the best films ever made and truly spatial in a purely Chinese manner. It will completely transform your enjoyment of this.
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
In the movie, the king of Qin was close to unify the whole country and thus end the continuous wars. The assassins all have grudge against the king. But they realized that if they kill the king, the whole nations will plunge into another endless wars. Killing the king won't give them back what they have lost. But it will surely cause more suffering to the people. So they choose to let go their revenge and even their lives for a greater cause, the peace. It is like what the nameless said in the movie, the ideal warrior will know when to lay down the sword.
The most obvious thing about the film is the way in which it is shot. The scenes themselves are astonishingly beautiful, deeply affecting and (I would guess) just as important as the action that they contain. The scenes engaged me in the same way that great art engages. I wanted to keep looking at them, enjoying the visual perfection.
Against this perfect background the fight scenes are dreamlike, and beautifully choreographed. They highlight the fantastic art of the fighters, and reinforce the link between the understanding of form in combat, and form in calligraphy or art.
The simple, beautiful nature of the combat, the colours, the scenes, and even the names of the assassins serve to underline the simplicity of the story, and reinforce its powerful (if controversial) message. The assassin becomes a hero by understanding that the creation of 'Our Land' is superior to his own revenge, and the chaos that would be created by that revenge.
The conclusion that the greater good of society should supersede the individual's selfish goals probably has more resonance in China than it does in the West, but the point is made powerfully, but above all, beautifully made.
Well worth watching!
Anyway, a man who shall remain Nameless has dispatched the kingdom's three top assassins, thus easing the King's mind that he could sleep at night. But the King is curious and we see the true story and how the tale unfolds.
The fights are beautiful. The battle between Snow and Moon, though lopsided, was a joy. It was art in itself. But overall, be patient. With the many changes in the story, I lost my concentration adjusting to it. But any fan of martial arts and drama must see this movie. It is that elegant.
First of all, I noticed heavy use of Daoist symbols. The five elements were used - one per fight - fire, wind, water, wood, and metal. A message in the film seemed to show the Daoist idea that the harder you try, the worse you do, as Moon did in her fights. On the other hand, if you can go with the Dao (think: Use the force, Luke), you will succeed.
Second, I did not know before watching the film that it was Zhang Yimou's. His films are often critical of the Chinese Communist Party and sometimes have deep allegorical meaning. Some of his films are banned in China. Hero, on the other hand, seemed to be intensely nationalistic. Lately in China, the communist government has promoted nationalism (instead of populist Communist values as they did pre-1976) with a great degree of success. The use of the word "Tianxia" (literally "all under heaven," translated in the movie was "Our Land") seems Confucian and nationalistic at the same time. Although I would have not guessed this film was by Zhang Yimou from the plot or message, the cinematography was unmistakable. Hero eerily reminded me of another film, Yellow Earth (Huang Tudi), which Zhang Yimou did not direct but for which he did the cinematography.
Third, historically, Hero lacked in a few very obvious places. The Qin Emperor, Qin Shi Huang, was legendary for his fear of death and his Machiavellian rule. When his character states that he no longer fears death because of Broken Sword's words and invites Nameless to kill him, he is entirely breaking with the true historical figure of the emperor. Remember, this is the emperor who built an entire terracotta army to protect him from his enemies in death and spent a lot of money and effort looking for the secret to reach immortality. He was known for a Confucian philosophy spin-off known as Legalism, which is very similar to Western Machiavellianism. While his quick mind (or his advisor's) might have figured out Nameless's plot, he would never have hesitated in executing him.
Overall, this seems like a break from the usual genre one would expect from Zhang Yimou. I am not sure exactly what message he is trying to convey with this film, other than an endorsement of Chinese nationalism and perhaps Daoism as well.
The color schemes used are incandescent and only help to propel the viewers into the tales that these warriors are telling the audience and each other. With one story you get white, another red, green, blue. They set the mood and get you the viewer anxious to know what this story will say. The way that each story is presented (although some untrue) builds the characters up in a way that you see that there is more to them than their basic diagnostic. You really see this exampled with Flying Snow, as she is shown as wanton, loving, vengeful and true. In the end you really need all of the stories to understand every character fully.
The director of this movie did an outstanding job. This movie has great editing and direction, it is very clean and precise, never losing the attention of the audience.
If you don't like foreign movies this movie will change your mind to appreciate them, and if you already like them then this will jump to the top of your list of favorites. Brilliantly done 9/10
Green is usually associated with memory, with cognition. It is a perfect choice of color for the flashbacks.
Black, the dominant color in scenes where Nameless and the Emperor converse, could have been used as a strong contrast against the colored versions to differentiate the actual narration from the various stories. Notice that black is the color worn by the government officials, the soldiers, the emperor's advisers, and even by Nameless when he affiliates himself with the empire. Black may also symbolize the neutrality of the government.
These are merely my own rationalizations and should not be taken to be factual. After all, colors do not have exclusive meanings. The use of color in Hero was a really effective way of making sure the viewers understand the delineations between the different versions of the story.
While it is important to note that both films are masterpieces of cinematic opera, Wo Hu Cang Long is a throwback to the classic action epics of early Chinese films, similar to the swashbuckling films out of Hollywood. It makes no apologies for the silliness of the early films, including flying swordfighters. Ying Xiong is more of a play on those films and the stories that inspired them.
Jet Li plays a nameless assassin who offers the King of Qin the weapons of his three greatest enemies. In doing so, he tells a fanciful tale of how he defeated them with both his sword and his mind. Following this, the King explains what he believes took place. It is a tale of deceit aimed at getting the assassin in place to kill the King. Their stories are enacted on screen through a feast of color and sound.
Knowing a touch of Chinese history, it is clear that the King of Qin cannot be killed. He unites all of China under one ruler. Like watching Titanic while knowing that it would sink in the end, it is still captivating to see how the nameless assassin will react as the King uncovers his secret motive.
It is also important to note that all of the fanciful swordplay and flying takes place in the stories told by the assassin and the King, not in the parts of the film intended to be on a real world foundation. For those who were turned off by the unrealistic stunts in Wo Hu Cang Long, it is easy to accept the same actions in Ying Xiong.
So first thing first - who is the King of Qin (later the Qin Emperor)? He was (and still is) a highly controversial character from over two thousands years ago, who is notable for unifying China but also someone vilified throughout Chinese history for his cruelty and brutality in the pursuit of his objective. He can be regarded as a the founder of the country called China (the English word "China" is often thought to be derived from the word "Qin"), but the dynasty he founded collapsed rapidly after his death due to widespread civil revolt as a result of the hatred for his regime.
What is his significance at present time in China? The Qin Emperor was hated throughout much of Chinese history, but attempts were made to rehabilitate his reputation in recent times, most notably by Chairman Mao during the 1970's. To the Chinese, historical justification of a political regime is important; and Mao, before his death, was concerned about his reputation after his death and made a conscious attempt to justify his totalitarian and brutal regime. Thus the Qin Emperor was praised for the destruction of division in favour of unification (note that this is the point made by the film), and that his brutality was justified as necessary in difficult times. In fact the criticism of him was that he wasn't "totalitaran" enough, perhaps in retrospect that is something that Mao was able to outdo the Qin Emperor. This image of the good dictatorship despite the great evils done is one that the current inheritor of Mao's China is keen to maintain.
The Qin Emperor is therefore not just an interesting historical figure, but someone who embodies the mindset of the ruling elite of present day China. And we can therefore understand this film in term of the political and cultural context of the current regime in China (the film has the full approval of the Government of PR China). It tells us that division means violence (therefore there can be no independent Tibet or Taiwan), and to ensure peace there has to be single dictatorship and state violence is necessary, furthermore individuals must be prepared to sacrifice themselves to achieve such end.
The easiest way for non-Chinese to understand this is to imagine of something that never happened - the unification of Europe by Nazi Germany (this is not an unreasonable comparison as the Qin Emperor had in China before Mao's revisionism about the same reputation as Hitler). To ensure peace in Europe, you should argue that there must be no separate nation states in Europe, and brutality is necessary to ensure peace. Peace is the be all and end all, even if as can see that in fact there has been relative peace in Western Europe after the Second World War with the separate nation states still intact.
And from this we can see from this how creepy some of the reviewers are. One guy from Germany argued that we should forget about the politics and just concentrate on the beauty of the film. Just imagine saying that about Leni Riefenstahl's "Triumph des Willens", strange that it should come from a German. One guy argued that it is about peace, and unification is necessary to ensure it. But we can see that this is a completely bogus argument when we look at history (unified Qin collapsed in violence quickly, while Europe remains in relative peace as separate nation states). One guy from the US argued that, unlike the self-centredness of Western culture, people in Chinese expect to make sacrifice for the greater good. Well, tell that to the Chinese people living in US that they should be prepared to sacrifice their human rights for the good of the US government and see how far you will get.
Other reviewers stated that the film is not totally sympathetic to the Qin Emperor as it showed him losing control (he cannot pardon Nameless, and must execute Nameless because his bureaucrats think he must). This makes the message of the film even worse - you should sacrifice your life for a totalitarian state effectively ruled by faceless and heartless bureaucrats? I can't imagine anything worse.
It is, in all, a creepy film with a creepy message, supported by some creepy reviewers. Sad to see this listed among the top 250 films in IMDb.
I just can't get over the fact that a lot of people seem to think there is no storyline, no plot. Well, open your eyes and mind just a little bit, because there's a huge plot behind it, however small it looks.
This movie poses interesting, disturbing and very poignant questions about leadership, democracy, unity, love and loyalty:
- the way Moon is completely loyal to her master Broken Sword
- the way Flying Snow is dedicated to her plea of revenge and her willingness to surrender her love for Broken Sword
- the way Sky, Broken Sword and Flying Snow are united in their love and faith in Nameless to kill the King of Qin
- the way that the King of Qin wants to unite all the peoples of China to have just a single language (at first only Broken Sword sees the greater scheme of things)
- the way the King of Qin dominated and oppresses an entire country with good intentions but poor communication
- the way Nameless gives up his life for a goal he understands is greater than him and his revenge
Yes, there is so much plot and storyline in this movie that I still have not unraveled it all during the first two viewings of the movie!
And then there's the visuals, which are truly stunning, and as you may have noticed the five colors are also a symbol for at least five different story lines ...
Please take a look again and this time genuinely WATCH IT and TAKE IT IN.
SPOILERS. Initially Nameless tells the King that he has developed a novel fighting technique and he has killed Sky, Broken Sword, and Flying Snow, three of the most renowned fighters. (These are the kinds that fly or float above the water, as in Chinese lore.) But the King doesn't believe the story, and instead tells his own version, which points to Nameless being there actually to kill the King. He had developed a move that was guaranteed fatal from 10 paces, and that was how close he was now to the King. However, the King made him realize that killing him would hurt all the peoples, since he then would not be able to bring unity, so Nameless resisted and left him safe. Still, he had made a threat to the King, so outside all the Kings warriors shot arrows at Nameless against a far wall, he gave up his life for the people.
We have 6 very well-educated Asian people, all know this part of famous Chinese history more or less, watching this movie together. At the end, some feel so disappointed about the story, and the others, worse, felt so disgusted by its built-in political messages.
Praise its photography as you wish, but please don't tell me this is a great movie. A beautiful movie with a terrible message can't be a great movie. It simply is NOT.
Even with my high respect for Mr. Zhang's earlier works, I can't help but feel so disappointed with this overhyped film.
Warning: Spoiler ahead (The version I watched is the original Asian release issued in 2002, which is longer than this US version.)
1. Brief historic background
In this movie, the King of Qin state use his powerful troops mercilessly to invade the six other states in early China, and eventually conquered them all to form his Qin empire.
Historically, he was the first emperor to "unite" China. In reality, he was the cold-blooded tyrant who achieved his ambition with brutal force and at the cost of numberless people's lives and blood. One chinese legend stated that his troop was ordered to kill (bury alive) 400,000 surrendered soldiers from the neighbor state "Zhao" after one battle, just to crush the morale of other resisting forces. This is just one of countless example of what he did to "unite" China.
Due to his tyranny, people hated him so much, especially those from the six other conquered states. The great empire he spent his lifetime to build only last for 15 years, one of the shortest in China's history. The empire soon turned into another chaotic battle field with all the uprising forces fighting against his heir, until another new dynasty (Han).
The most laughable part (and historically incorrect) in this movie is that, although the assassin have gone through so many years of preparation aiming to kill this brutal tyrant to save his own country and people, he was so [unbelievably] easily persuaded (or tricked) by this King to give up his life-long mission, even at the cost of his own life, and knowingly let this tyrant and his massive force finish crushing all other countries.
A graceful assassin? or an unbelievably stupid idiot? Of course the history ended with the King has his way and had all the people in China kneel before him. What a glorious story with a extremely stupid assassin.
2. The "message"? Is this really a propaganda film?
So the "message" of this movie: the best way for suffering people to end war is letting the powerful invading force finish their job, letting the brutal tyrant be the emperor, without resisting or trying to kill him, then we will all get peace and become one "united great country" ?
In short: Let the big bad guy have his way with us, and then we can all live peacefully afterward?
How intelligent and creative!!
If the message in this movie is so true, why should people fight in WW2? We should let Hitler conquer Europe and there will be no war over there after he finish all others, just a great "glorious" NAZI empire?? We should let Japanese conquer the East Asia (including China) so there will be no more fighting and killing over there either???
This is exactly why some people in Asia call this movie a piece of communist propaganda. This is a good piece of work to teach the people to let their powerful (totalitarian or not) government have its way, no matter how bad or controling it is, so that there will be "stability" and a "glorious united country".
Now you know why Zhang Yi-Mou, whose earlier works were not really appreciated by the officials in China, was suddenly so well funded and supported by Beijing in making this movie.
Am I biased? Well, I guess so. I know so much about this part of Chinese history and also the connection between this film and the Chinese government, that I just can't pretend I am [objective] to call this movie a piece of "pure art".
This movie did not do too well in Asia. I am surprised it do quite well in the US. Funny.
Praise its photography as you wish, but please don't tell me this is a great movie. A beautiful movie with a terrible message can't be a great movie. It is NOT.
Sorry Mr. Zhang, I can only give you 3 stars out of 10 this time. Even with my respect for your earlier works, I can't help but feel so disgusted this time.
3 out of 10.
However, the main problem is the story. The first hour or so focuses on 3 different versions of one event most of which weren't true. The last 20 minutes shows us what really happened/happens and the conclusion is pointless. Well, the entire story has no point. Had Yimou picked a compelling story to tell, then 'Ying Xiong' may have been a masterpiece.
Jet Li fails to impress. He fails to show any emotion at all. Ziyi Zhang's expressions look forced. She lacks spontaneity. Daoming Chen is strictly alright. Donnie Yen does well in a small role. However, the best performances come from Tony Leung Chiu Wai and Maggie Cheung. They beautifully display the love between Broken Sword and Flying Snow and make it easier for the viewer to sympathize for them in spite of their flawed characters.
So, 'Ying Xiong' has almost everything going for it. It only needed a good story and better performances from some of the cast.