I completely agree with bbbgut's review. Being a Chinese American, I believe that Asian cinema is still many steps behind Hollywood in many respects. Like so many other films, there were so many scenes in Chi Bi that were not central to the story. Instead, these scenes were superfluous and cheesy. Half the scenes were just fat that needs to be trimmed.
Notable examples are 1) the protracted scene with the old farmer and the boy with the di zi (wooden flute) 2) the birth scene of the calf 3) the battle of the guzhengs (wooden harpsichords) and 4) the tiger hunt in the woods.
The tiger in the woods scene spent a large part of the film establishing a character (King of Eastern Wu) who had such a small role in the movie. Of all the characters in the movie, the King was probably the least memorable. Yet, he received the most screen time in character development. On top of all this, the scene was done very poorly. John Woo failed to show how daunting it could be to hunt a tiger and how much courage it takes to confront such a beast. The end of the hunt was terribly anti-climatic. And after this long scene for the King, he was barely seen again.
For analysis of the other scene read on: Through the other scenes, John Woo wanted to establish 1) Zhou Yu is an able and learned General disciplined in Sun Tsu's (Sun Zi) the Art of War 2)Zhuge Liang has a keen intellect and is in command of many disciplines that help him as an able strategist. 3) Zhuge Lian and Zhou Yu are way above the rest in intellect and that they can communicate on a higher plain. He established these points quite ineffectively and yet they took so much film time. Instead, these scenes, left you confused until later on, when Zhuge Liang says outright he is very capably in command of (1) The Moral Law; (2) Heaven; (3) Earth; (4) The Commander; (5) Method and discipline. 5 aspects of the Art of War. Even at this explicit explanation, the audience will fail to equate knowledge of war to a calf being born. To reiterate, unless it applies directly to winning the war at Chi Bi, LEAVE IT OUT.
In a movie you must establish these subtle yet important points as quickly as possible. One is not afforded with the little nuances and side plots that develop the characters unless you want the audience to watch all 120 chapters of the original book in it's glorious detail. In addition, you want to stay focused on the central theme of the movie: "The war at red cliff". It's the title for Christs sake. Unless you want the movie to be named birthing, music, and war don't include those other scenes. Have other scenes take it's place.
Last note, instead of the guzheng scene, how great could it be if the two strategists could see each others' genius through their battle plans. And we as the audience bear witness to their great minds beginning to resonate with each other. Instead of seeing Sir Isaac Newton and Alber Einstein engage in a piano dual.
John Woo says that he will consolidate the 2 part movie in to one for the American audience because Americans don't have the attention span for long films. This is not true, since a movie like Schindler's list is worth every minute of the 3hr 15 min running time. Also, Part II, Chi Bi 2, was just a long protracted battle scene anyway. With the only notable scene being "stealing arrows with straw boats".