08 December 2005
The HERO - Movie Review
“Good is not good when better is expected”, said Thomas Fuller
And when you enter the theatre expecting “Great”, you know deep inside, it’s not going to measure up. But the first forty minutes of the movie, did come very close to it. That’s saying a lot about “HERO”.
After the initial shock that the dialogues are in Chinese, you hurriedly try to get over it since the movie has already started. There is a voice-over explaining how China is divided into six regions-Qin, Zhao, 3,4,5 and 6. (Don’t expect me to remember all the Chinese names). The ruler of Qin wants to unite all six regions. The King’s logic being without wars there can’t be everlasting peace. The King has summoned Jet Li, the nameless warrior, since he claims to have killed the three deadly assasins, Long Sky, Broken Sword and the Flying Snow (wonder who picks the character names for martial arts movies).
You know you are in for a great adventure when Jet Li climbs the steps of Qin King’s palace as the camera pans out showing thousands of warriors standing outside the palace. Jet Li begins to tell his first conquest of how he killed the brave warrior, Sky. Great directors go beyond the normal scene and give you an entirely new way of thinking about that scene. Zhang Yimou proves he belongs in that group by combining chords of music and Sword Play. A musical-sword-orchestra executed in slow motion in rain enhanced by the sound of each raindrop in the sword. It’s a visual treat.
Next, it’s the story of conquest of Broken Sword and Flying Snow where Yimou now mixes the art of Calligraphy with Swordsmanship. The assembly of Qin Army with their equipment to fire arrows, outside the village of Zhao, is a sight to behold. You see the prowess of Snow in action. When you see a 11 by 6 m screen completely filled with falling autumn yellow leaves and two women (Snow and Moon, disciple of Sword) involved in a wild, acrobatic, leaves dancing action sequence ending with all the falling yellow leaves turning Red, all you can do is sit back and enjoy. With each story of conquest, Jet Li , gets 10 feet closer to the King. And you immediately guess the Nameless Warrior is there to kill the King. Just when you think, is that all? Is it going to be a short movie, Yimou, brilliantly pulls you back in the story when the King says “All the stories you have been telling me is Bullshit” and gives his version of the story. Jet Li, corrects the King’s story with another version. The movie takes a tumble from there on.
With multiple versions, each shown as flashback, your attitude at the end of it,is like “Whatever”. After an hour, you get used to picture perfect shots; slo-mo/wire action sequences and they take you one step further batting water droplets with swords in the lake. You go through the motions as the story has taken three somersaults. You are just waiting when it would return back to the “real” version. I was strangely reminded of the pain of last half hour of “LOTR: Return of Kings”, when I got out of my seat 4 times, thinking the movie was over. All the Wow-factors of the first 40mins,vanishing with each passing minute. And finally when it ends, you wonder why Yimou forgot to scream, “CUT” half hour before. Nevertheless, it is a movie to be watched in Theatre.
To repeat the first quote, “Good is not good when better is expected”. Expect Good not Greatness.