Excellent wire-work choreography is stunning to look at, but it doesn't make a great film on its own.
Initially I thought that that was all I was going to get, the film didn't seem to offer much more than the un-named hero telling three stories of how he managed to kill the three most wanted would-be assassins to the Emperor....
...But how wrong I was - what appears to be an over simplistic story ends up gloriously laced with twists and by the end of the film you fully understand, and have a respect for both the assassins and the Emperor.
As with House of Flying Daggers, there is a reliance of colours throughout the film, with many scenes using mainly grey visuals with an emphasis on one bright colour. This seems to be one of Yimou Zhang's signatures as a director and is incredibly effective at giving the film a stylish look, and many of the colours are symbolic in some way.
I've already mentioned the choreography, and this is coupled with some effective CGI. Sometimes CGI can appear obvious and results in you stepping out of the film as believability ebbs away. But here it looks natural, and adds to the epic feel of the film - the arrows from the archers in the battle scenes are amazing, and the visuals of such a vast army are breathtaking.
In a nutshell: What I thought was going to be a pretty shallow film became an epic with a deep emotional edge. There are no 'goodies' or 'baddies' in this film - just people who are prepared to die for what they believe in. We are left in silent respect in front of the screen at the end, but with the knowledge that after the credits have rolled, those who were prepared to die for their beliefs, gave their lives to make a change.
on 5 July 2007
Jet Li came back to Hong Kong with this film. `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. 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.
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, even though I couldn't understand a single word except for the word "Yes" but other then that I went on reading the subtitles. (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.Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung were great in there roles. I feel that they had outclassed everyone in this film. Their scenes are so good it drains any remaining interest out of the main story.
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 'Crouching Tiger', is appropriate, and sticks hauntingly to the back of your mind long after the movie is over.
`Hero' is undoubtedly a 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.
on 20 April 2007
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.
By the way, Hero topped American Box Office charts- the 1st time a subtitled film had done so (until the Passion) in box office history. The visuals are real eye candy and the action sequences 'operatic.'
Ever since Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was released back in 2000, films since then have tried to capture its purity, its unique look and stylishly-made action but all have failed...until now. From the start off, director Zhang Zimou tells this handsome tale of a nameless warrior, who needs to assassinate China's deadiest assassins before he can get an audience with the Emperor, with remarkable ease.
The perfectly-picked cast from Jet Li, Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung, Zhang Ziyi and Donnie Yen all show that they've got excellent acting talents (especially Jet Li and Maggie Cheung) while also showing that they've also got tremendous physique and awesome martial artistry too. The story wonderfully flows along with the soothing soundtrack, beautiful colourisation (blues, reds, greens, oranges) and epic set-pieces. Now, the breath-taking action set-pieces is what this film is all about...from Jet Li's encounter with Sky (Donnie Yen) to the splendid grand finale with the Emperor, the action never stops with its fluent sword-fighting, effortless flying techniques (that looks almost as better than Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and awe-inspiring visual-FX that looks gorgeous to watch on-screen.
Presented by Quentin Tarantino (Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2) and loved by critics everywhere, this is a stupendously enjoyable and immensely unforgettable epic fable which will be loved by audiences for years to come.
on 23 March 2007
Very rarely does a film make full use of the many visual aspects of cinematography, but Hero is one of them. From the very start of the film it entrances with stunning photography, atmospheric music and assured acting. The direction of the many fight scenes makes each piece a choreographed dream, from the fight in the rain at the beginning of the film to the finale in the Emperor's hall with its billowing green sails and sweeping camera angles. For use of colour alone the film would rank highly - so few film makers manipulate that most precious of inventions - colour film. I remember seeing the Wizard of Oz as a child and feeling the wonderment people must have experienced at seeing colour after all the years of black and white. The colours were used as an aid to tell the story, to highlight character and tone, to enhance feelings - Hero takes back that sense of wonderment and I was stunned by the beauty and originality of both its story (a film with a philosophical message, how rare!) and its artistry.
on 13 May 2008
Jet Li stars as Nameless, a silent warrior who sits before The King of Qin and recounts his battles with three great warriors and how he ended up there within ten paces of the King.
Chinese cinema is fantastic. From the brilliant artistic fantasy Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon to House of Flying daggers it continues to improve with marvellous direction, choreography and cinematography and this Oscar Nomination hit is no exception.
Jet Li stars as Nameless, a talented warrior with a troubled life.
Sitting infront of the King, he recounts his fights with 3 other great warriors, Broken Sword, Snow and Sky.
The plot is told through flashbacks and many at that where director Yimou Zhang (Flying daggers) chooses a very colourful way of telling quite a dramatic story about loyalty, truth and love. There is also a strong ideology behind "doing the right thing" which is executed brilliantly by director and cast.
The flashbacks provide excellent twists and turns to an exciting edge of you seat narrative. Though sometimes confusing they are visually stunning, especially the fight sequences.
The choreography is astonishing with excellent one on one fight sequences. The lake fight is the best of the entire film, with the little drop of water proving so delicate and effective to the character's reactions and feelings.
I have heard some people say that these special fighting sequences are sometimes a bit repetitive but that doesn't stop them being brilliant. These little fantasy elements to these films give the plot something extra, a bit of edge and extra excitement.
The settings are wonderful, especially the lake and watch for the changing colours in the forest fight, similar to Flying Daggers.
Out of the three mentioned, I personally favour Flying Daggers but Hero has the best use of flashbacks, mystery and rivalry to make it a great watch for all ages.
Don't be put off by the fact this film was heavily promoted by the self-styled saviour of Asian Cinema, Quentin Tarrantino, it is far better than anything he has even dreamt of directing or producing.
Hero is a tale based on Chinese folk-lore that Zhang Yimou paints in a glorious palate of reds, greens and blues. His very visual style of story telling is highly evident in this film and works perfectly with the ballet like performances of his stars.
The chemistry between the characters, especially Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung, is extraordinary and adds depth and emotional charge to the proceedings, saving Hero from being labelled as just another pretty martial arts film. The ever present Zhang Ziyi produces another memorable performance and Jet Li is the embodiment of collected calm as the nameless warrior.
The English dubbing is a good feature. As the audience for asian cinema has increased over the years, so has the quality of the international dubbing. Subtitles by their very nature have to be relatively short and to the point, especially in very visual films. This means that a lot of the dialogue is edited and you lose a lot of the script. The writing in Hero is so strong I recommend viewing the film dubbed into English as well as Mandarin with subtitles. It takes a bit to get used to but hearing the script as it was meant to be is well worth it. It's a bit like watching a film you've only seen on tv at an IMAX cinema - a whole new experience. The best example I've heard of this is in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (another wonderful film), here's a section of dialogue:
"Even warriors can be stupid" - English subtitles
"In affairs of the heart even the greatest warrior can be a consummate idiot." - Same line but dubbed into English
Hero is a brilliant story told through visual flare and highly emotive performances, with an ending that leaves you breathless. The title of the film suggests it focuses on one character, one hero; but as the film unfolds you begin to realise that every character present could be described thus. Simply superb.
on 10 August 2005
I'm fairly new with this type of film, having not seen Crouching tiger, hidden dragon. However I did see House of flying daggers by the same director and have to say this is much better. This isn't just a straight forward martials arts film, it is a very artisitc, and stylised movie. Using the world famous wire technigue used in traditional Hong Kong martial arts films, which has beed used in a lot of films now including The Matrix, they have produced some amazing fight scenes. This film has some of the best fight scenes I have seen in any film, they are so well choreographed and stylised, they are just a joy to watch. The film also has a vivid use of colour similar to House of flying daggers, with bright red, green and blue costumes against pale backgrounds. The cinematography is very cool as well and some of the locations are impressive, the fight on top of the lake is great!
The story tells of an assassin and his quest to protect the Emporer from other assassins, or is all as it seems? Various flashbacks show how he has arrived to where he is now. If you like good action films, martial arts or appreciate stunning visuals you will love this film.
The chat with Quetin Taratino and Jet Li is an ok extra about 12 mins and mainly shows scenes from some of Li's other lesser know films and fight scenes.
The hero defined extra is an approx 30 min making of, going behind the scenes on how the fights were done, the special effects, locations. The bulk of this is an interview with the director with comments from the main actors in the film as well. The DVD enables you to watch the film either in Chinese with subtitles or dubbed into English. Overall a great film that will stay in the memory long after you have watched it!
on 25 October 2005
Hero is the most magnificient film anyone could dream of watching with a carnival of colour and a highly complex plot involving a struggle between heroic assasins and the monarchy that alternates regulary. The fight scenes are perfectly choreographed and highly satisfying although they may be classed as too long. The acting is fantastic and it seems a shame that Zhang Ziyi (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, House of Flying Daggers) does not have a larger role. Although action orientated this film has many poignant moments that will take your breath away!
on 16 February 2007
Most beautiful cinematography of any film ever
Cleverest use of colour in any film ever
Amazing, spine-chillingly-moving Tan Dun musical score
Intelligent, engaging, touching story
Fantastic acting and action scenes
You will forget about the subtitles within about 3 seconds and be open-mouthed with awe during the entire film.
If you didn't like it: What's WRONG with you??