Our movie critic Luo Laiming talks about Tsui Hark's 3-D martial-arts film "Flying Swords of Dragon Gate".
Wuxia, or martial-arts movies are a distinct genre of Chinese film. The most memorable ones are not necessarily those packed with nonstop action, but ones in which the main characters extol the so-called wuxia spirit - loyalty, sense of mission, free expression of emotion, and the strong helping the weak.
Director Tsui Hark has succeeded in creating a lasting impression on viewers with many of his wuxia films, including "New Dragon Gate Inn". But will his new film "Flying Swords of Dragon Gate" be as successful as its prequel?
Considering Tsui's previous achievements, his fans know he has at least an adequate understanding of the wuxia spirit. A typical example in "Flying Swords" is Jet Li's character Zhou Huai'an. As a skillful swordsman, Zhou feels obligated to cleanse the Ming government of power-crazed officials. As he has chosen a dangerous road, he has made a conscious decision to neglect the love of female swordsman Ling Yanqiu. Nevertheless, Ling is willing to sacrifice herself for Zhou and his mission. Having survived a mission impossible with Ling, Zhou finally musters up enough courage to confront his feelings.
More importantly, Tsui is also known as a bold director who refuses to be shackled by tradition and constantly remains on the lookout for creative outlets for his ideas and beliefs. He is quite alert to the needs of his time and willing to challenge tradition and himself to meet them. For example, "Flying Swords of Dragon Gate" is China's first domestically produced 3-D IMAX film. Tsui says the technology has greatly helped him further develop his filmmaking skills.
Aside from famous movie stars Jet Li, Zhou Xun and Chen Kun, Tsui also included young actresses such as Li Yuchun and Kwai Lun-mei in his new film. The fledglings may not be much to look at, but their presence holds a certain appeal for young viewers. Even among the famous actors, Chen Kun, who plays two roles in the movie, gives a much more convincing performance than Jet Li. The latter is certainly impressive with his martial-arts skills, but falls short when it comes to showing the human and tender sides of his character.
Tsui's creativity can also be seen in the diversity and originality of the weapons he assigns to each character. Some of them may have been designed to amplify the visual effects with 3-D technology, because they create quite a spectacle on an IMAX screen.
Generally speaking, the focus of the film is on form rather than spirit. Tsui Hark certainly has a way of making his film entertaining with an abundant supply of comical and breathtaking 3-D scenes. As for a portrayal of the wuxia spirit, viewers must look hard not to miss it. But because Tsui is only catering to contemporary viewers' tastes, perhaps he is not the one to blame after all.
On a scale from 1 to 10, "Flying Swords of Dragon Gate" deserves a 7.
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