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The Promise directed by Chen Kaige, who directed the excellent but
depressing Farewell My Concubine, is pretty much being hated by people
everywhere on this database. Everybody claims that it's not a real
martial arts film, that the cast is terrible, the special effects are
cheesy, the story is garbage and the directing is just plain awful.
Well, there is some truth in some of those comments. But instead of
looking at it a negative way, one should look at those negatives with a
glass half-full approach, and one realize there is a very enjoyable
movie underneath all this massive criticism.
Yes, The Promise is not a martial arts movie, i'll be the first to admit that. It's such a shame that this movie is being compared to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero because this movie is not at all like those films. For starters, this movie is less Jet Li and more Lord of the Rings, but with an Asian influence. That being said, i found that element of the movie quite intriguing, for the costumes and the cultures of the characters in the movie made me feel as if i were reading a fantasy novel rather than merely watching a martial arts film. Furthermore, since this movie is not a martial arts film really, one should realize that this movie isn't about China, contrary to what many people think. So it makes sense that there is a range of other Asian actors in this film, despite what everyone else making it out that it is ludicrous. The director Chen Kaige wanted to present a story in a land that was just limited to Chinese people, Japanese people or one simple Asian people. He wanted to create his own land, with his own people, perhaps his own mythology one could say. I find it quite intriguing when people create their own mythology, after all, it works for Frank Miller and Quentin Tarantino, why can't it work for Kaige? So the story excels, not perfect, but it is still intriguing enough. So what about the acting? Not superb either, but still quite solid. Though i was a little disappointed in Cecilia Cheung, i was surprisingly enamored with Nicholas Tse. For some reason, his character had me hooked, intrigued, and his role at the ending may be either clever or stupid depending on your openness to this movie. Hiroyuki Sanada was also quite a surprise, but i felt a little let down by his performance as well, expecting perhaps too much from a character that was limited. As for the slave Kunlun, he perhaps had a very stellar performance as the slave turned hero, but to me, he didn't compare to Nicholas Tse.
The effects of the movie aren't the greatest, at times they are cheesy and some part even had me chuckle a bit, making me feel as if i were watching an anime film and not a real movie. Yet contrary to what many people say, it doesn't take anything away from the movie. And as far as the directing, i believe Chen Kaige did a fantastic job. He is a very underrated director, which is hard to say for a guy that won the 1993 Cann Palm D'or, but i believe he needs to have some supporters with all the critique he gets from movie audiences all over the world.
The Promise is a glorious film and i was enamored with it from beginning to end. It may not be one of the best Asian films out there (Wong Kar Wai is still the king of Asian Cinema), and i'm still scratching my head on why the government of China would sponsor a film like this (considering it really is about any Chinese history whatsoever), but it is enjoyable. If you're looking for a fun, fantasy romance that has a little bit more substance than the simple hack and slash fantasy film, this is your call. If you're looking though for a dramatic martial arts film in the mold of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, you might be a little disappointed. But nonetheless, it's a good film that deserves recognition.
I saw this film at the Traverse City Film Festival in August 2006 and
loved it. As the title suggests, the film is about a promise, or a
series of promises, and the events they set into motion. The story
unfolds slowly, as fairy tales do, and it's a visual stunner. The sets
and costumes are rich and vibrantly colored, and the music and
cinematography were breathtakingly beautiful. The subtitles were
This film is pure fantasy and watching it is like watching a painting in motion. Forget realism -- it's a fairytale and must be approached with that in mind. It is not what I would describe as a martial arts film, although there is some stylized fighting a la Crouching Tiger. But unlike that film, I would probably be willing to allow my 8-year-old son to watch this film (with me alongside), as it was not graphically violent (certainly not like Lord of the Rings) and was such a magical fairytale. People who see this film expecting one of those classic martial arts films will be disappointed, because that's not what this film is about. I suspect the many negative comments on this board are from people who had other expectations; I had none when I saw this film and was utterly delighted.
I loved that it surprised me in how it ended, an ending that moved me to tears. This is a film I would love to own and watch again and again. I will definitely look for the soundtrack.
When I was a kid, going to the movies gave me a rush like nothing else,
but for the last few years my movie-going experience has been one
disappointment after another. "The Promise" was a very rare exception.
I'm not saying this movie is for everybody. It's heavily stylized, and the mythical nature of the story requires a certain suspension of disbelief. BUT, if you crave stimulation for your eyes, your ears, and your imagination, this movie will deliver. The score is incredible, and every frame is stunning, visually. The story is a fairy tale. If you let yourself get lost in it, the experience will be magical. If you spend your time analyzing, breaking down the laws of physics, and worrying whether you're getting all the intended messages, you will most likely come away unsatisfied.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I don't understand why so many commentators seem annoyed or even offended by The Promise? Is it because it doesn't correspond to their pre-conceived idea of Chen Kaige? So what? Let's take the movie at its own value. This is a fairytale, not a martial arts film. Comparisons with Hero or CTHD are not appropriate. Rather compare it to the many serials on Chinese television with flying goddesses and white haired sorcerers in fiery caves. The Promise is a de-luxe version of these folk legends, visually stunning, beautifully coloured and with all the lack of logic you also find in European fairy tales and folk stories. The closest equivalent are the stories of the brothers Grimm with all their magic and their violence and not necessarily a happy ending. The Promise created its own cinematic universe and I had no problem entering into it. When the film cane to its end I was sorry I could not stay longer in Chen Kaige's magical kingdom.
Most comments for "The Promise", or "Wu Ji", on the IMDb forum are
mainly negative. While it's obvious a film that could have been better,
it still offers a stunning look that Chen Kaige has given it. It helps
he was working with an excellent cinematographer, Peter Pau, who
photographed this film with lovingly care. The result are exquisite
images that might not mean a lot to the fans of films of this genre,
but will delight others, like this viewer, who is not into this type of
fantasy film. The music of Klaus Badelt plays well in the context of
the movie. The film has some of the fabulous costumes of any film in
It's easy to dismiss the film as a total failure. Other, more recent fare is cited as being much better, which could be true. But actually to experience the film as a gorgeous fantasy out of the talented director Chen Kaige's mind is worth the price of admission. Unfortunately, judging by the screening we attended recently, this film has not found an audience.
Dong-Kun-Jang is impressive as Kunlun. Hiroyuki Sanada also does good work as the General Quianming. The gorgeous Cecilia Cheung lends her beauty to her character, Princess Qingcheng.
The director will surely recover from this experience and concentrate on a more worthwhile story for his next venture. Chen Kaige deserves better and he will surely rise from the ashes like the magnificent phoenix he is.
I think that this is a very good film, in spite of what many people on
this board have said. It is, however, a very different kind of film
altogether; it is almost a pure transposition of folk tale to film,
with all of the magic and illogic and quirky plotting that such tales
involve. Films that attempt to transpose/translate comic books to film
do so best when they manage to get the 'tone' of the comic onto the
screen and recreate as much as possible the graphic and narrative style
of the comic. _The Promise_ does this effectively for folk-tale/myth.
I should probably add that I also like _Operetta Tanuki Goten_, by Suzuki Seijun, which is also working the same territory, albeit in a very different way. Chen's film also references highly formalistic genres like Beijing Opera, hence the acting styles are sometimes very far from the boring "realism" of most contemporary film. Viewers who complain of a lack of realism or believable emotion in films like these should try to climb Rapunzel's hair, and stick to "classic" fare like _Red Sorghum_ and _Farewell My Concubine_, which, brilliant though they are, work in the very familiar idiom of 'Art Film', and provide no difficulty for the kind of viewer who used to say, "I don't watch TV, but I really like _Masterpiece Theatre_".
Yimou and Kaige, with their latest films, are pushing Chinese film, and therefore international film, in new directions altogether, and part of that push is clearly an attempt to escape the heavy yoke of the 'European Art Film' tradition, the 'quirky-Indie-imitation-thereof' tradition, and the narrow confines of the various 'martial arts film' traditions as well. I say, good on them, and shame to those who won't celebrate creative development because it betrays their deeply conservative and traditionalist expectations. As to the suggestion that their recent work betrays a kind of "Hollywood-ification", all I can say is, "huh?"
When the world was young, laid a Kingdom between the Land of Snow and
the Barbarian Territory where gods and men lived side by side and
promises were lies. When the poor and starving orphaned girl Qingcheng
meets the Goddess Manshen (Hong Chen), she accepts to become the
wealthy beauty of beauties with the curse that she would lose every man
she loves, unless three things happen: snow falls in the spring, time
moves backwards and the dead comes back to life. Years later, the slave
Kunlun (Dong-Kun Jang) helps the Great General Master of the Crimson
Armor Guangming (Hiroyuki Sanada) to defeat a barbarian army with
almost seven times more warriors, and Kunlun becomes his slave. When
Guangming is wounded, he asks Kunlun to wear his armor and save the
king from the cruel Duke of the North Wuhuan (Nicholas Tse) that put
the Imperial City under siege with his army. However, Kunlun kills the
king to save Princess Qingcheng (Cecilia Cheung) and promises her to
never let her die. Princess Qingcheng falls in love for the man of the
crimson armor that she believes is General Guangming. When Snow Wolf
(Ye Liu) saves Kunlun and brings him to the Land of Snow, he recollects
his childhood when his mother and sister were killed by the evil
Wuhuan. Kunlun decides to return to the Kingdom to face Wuhuan and
fight for his love.
"Wu Ji" is one of the most beautiful fantasies that I have ever seen, and I list this magnificent film among my favorites. The story has romance, magic, betrayal, loyalty, action, supported by a stunning cinematography, great screenplay, wonderful special effects and awesome direction and performances. This film is surprisingly underrated in IMDb, with and user rating of 5.6. Cecilia Cheung is one of the most beautiful actresses of cinema and is perfect in the role of the Beauty of Beauties. In the end, fate can be changed. My vote is nine.
Title (Brazil): "A Promessa" ("The Promise")
This movie is a beautiful fairytale. Everything worked,the music and scenery were top notch. The special effects were great. I must admit that the scene with the bulls running reminded me of the Lion King and that at that moment I thought this movie would be ridiculous. Instead it was the opposite. Most of the the themes are very serious ones like love,honor and betrayal. Only the ending was a bit confusing,but I think they did that to add some extra dimension or mystery to the story. I understand why many reviewers were a bit disappointed with this movie as they were expecting a martial arts movie. Although there is some martial arts this movie isn't about that. I enjoyed every minute of this movie and that is more than I can say about most of the Hollywood movies that came out this year (2006).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
i think it deserves at least 8/10
it is a great movie to me, the storytelling is amazing, the idea of the movie is fascinating. But this movie is very funny in the sense that people can have very extreme views on it, love it or hate it.
I guess 1 reason some people hate it is that they expect it to be a straight forward movie that explain every details, but in fact it is a movie that provokes your thoughts rather than simply tells you the rationale. You need to get it by heart.
Maybe some people just don't get the importance of storytelling. They cant free their imagination and are too bound by their experience or logic. It is important for you to suspend your disbelief and let your soul goes with the movie.
To me, the center of the movie is well presented by its name "Wu Ji", which is a very sophisticated idea concerning about the end. Thats why there are many circles in the movie. The end is the beginning and life is a circle.
i don't like comparing movies, every movie has its own soul. "Wu Ji" is certainly more than martial arts, at least to me. It is such a beautiful story that really will stay with me.
In 'The Promise' Cecilia Cheung plays Qingcheng, an orphan girl trying
to survive. While on a battlefield, she tries to find scraps of food
from the dead soldiers to bring back to her sick mother. While trying
to escape the son of one of the generals, Qingcheng runs into the
goddess Manshen (Hong Chen). Manshen informs Qingcheng that her mother
is dead and strikes a deal with her. From this day forth Qingcheng will
always live in luxury, but every man she falls in love with she will
eventually lose. Qingcheng agrees to the bargain.
This movie is a combination of 'Hero' and 'Bulletproof Monk'. This is another Chinese legend epic that really fails as a movie. The moral of the story is hard to follow and takes forever to get its point across. On the plus side, it is a very visually stunning movie. It better be since it is the most expensive film in Chinese history with a budget of $35 million.
If you like 'Hero' and 'House of Flying Daggers', you might like this. Else, don't go see it.
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