Writer: Ezekiel Lee Zhiang YangWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
"Warlords" and "Hero".
There is a great risk in making war epics for any movie market - if they don't turn out spectacular, they immediately become spectacular failures. That's why there is great pressure to get at least the action bits correct, for the general perception of its quality will ride on trailers and teasers.
With a fierce title like "Three Kingdoms: Resurrection Of The Dragon", coupled in with the fact that it is one of two upcoming movies that are based on Romance Of The Three Kingdoms (too great a literature to screw up on), "Kingdoms" is on the back pedal from the off, as it tries to dispel the scepticism surrounding it. The problematic production (investor and money issues) was already compounded with suspect content - some costumes appear Japanese and the casting of the pan-Asian face of Maggie Q for a Mandarin speaking role seems unsuitable, especially if it is a popular piece of movie trivia that she goes for tuition to learn it.
Hey, it's called a movie - loosen up! Yet, "Kingdoms" wants to be taken seriously, what with its omission of redundant love story subplots and carefully selected music score. Still, the three kingdoms of Wei, Shu and Wu never seemed more casual than it does here. At 102 minutes, the epic feel of the movie is rushed through recklessly, and we are forced to care about Luo Ping An (Sammo Hung) and Zhao Zilong (Andy Lau) after only watching them share a piece of bread.
There are many attempts to capture the essence of war as written in the book, like how Cao Ying (Maggie Q) and Zhao Zilong (Andy Lau) trade psychological warfare. Still, there isn't much cinematic impact no matter how many people are chopped and cut. While Peter Chan's recent "Warlords" is just as messy, the character development is far superior.
Andy Lau's recent "Battle Of Wits" also seems more authentic compared to "Kingdoms" because the action is gritty, not stylised. Sammo Hung is the action director and some old school sequences are still in place but they are buried beneath a myriad of charging horses and flying arrows, all going off in as many directions as possible.
If you ignore ethnicity issues (and the curious desire to fiddle around with musical instruments in the middle of the battlefield), Maggie Q's hissing woman warrior Cao Ying doesn't seem too bad actually. Together with the rest of the cast, we can even conclude that the acting is quite faultless really - perhaps it was the direction that comes off iffy?
With "Kingdoms", you feel that it could have been a five star film if a few things were improved here and there. Before John Woo's "Red Cliff" hits the screens, it's still a good bet for almost-there entertainment. One thing though - Vanness Wu should never be in the same picture as Lung Ti. Harshly said, boy band members have no place in war epics, at least not one with Shaw Brothers' icons in it.Cinema Online, 23 September 2008