Friday, April 04, 2008

THREE KINGDOMS: Resurrection Of The Dragon - Un-Epic Effort


Cast: Andy Lau, Maggie Q (pic), Sammo Hung, Ti Lung and Vanness
Director: Daniel Lee
Time: 100 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

WELL, THE BIG DEAL is that the fears of Asian movie watchers had about this production seem to have come true: Daniel Lee is not the guy to direct such an epic as 'Three Kingdoms'. And even if he has not really botched up the job, he certainly was not inspired enough to engage his viewers and get them involved in the story. Despite the stylish sets and artistic photography, the touted action sequences are a blurry letdown.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? The war epic, set in the era of the Three Kingdoms (AD 220), is the story of commoner Zhao Zilong (Andy Lau) whose courage in battle transforms him into a hero and an army general who dreams of uniting the three kingdoms. Twenty years and more victorious battles later, Zhao, one of the five Tiger Generals of Shu kingdom, still finds his dreams unfulfilled. However, he has made an enemy of Cao Ying (Maggie Q), granddaughter of Cao Cao, one of the warlords he had defeated. Now she is ready for a showdown with the elderly Zhao. Zilong's exploits are juxtaposed against those of his former mentor Luo Pingan (Sammo Hung), a career soldier who is somehow jealous of Zhao's successes.

HITS & MISSES: When a movie relies so heavily on voice-over narrative as this one (mostly by Pingan), it usually means that the director is at a loss over how to tell the story properly. No doubt the biography of Zhao is expansive but Lee fails to delve deeper into Zhao's love life with a village beauty or give us insights into Zhao's life away from the battlefield. Indeed, the movie sorely lacks the emotional thread that links us to the characters.
Lee delights in showing off his huge cast of veteran stars like Ti Lung and Yueh Hua and young heart-throbs like Vanness Wu. Sure, the film boasts of thousands of extras that colour the battle scenes but the fighting sequences are pretty much a blur of movement. The much-touted action choreography by Hung looks pretty tame and confusing. Like many directors before him, Lee engages his characters in posturing and making pretty poses. Maggie Q's Cao Ying goes to battle playing the pippa, supposedly trying to bore her enemies to death! Anyway, Maggie's pan-Asian looks make her seem out-of-place in a movie about old China.

As for the acting, the main cast acquit themselves reasonably well, with Hung stealing many scenes. Also it is a treat for the older generation to see Shaw Brothers icons like Ti Lung and Yueh Hua back in action on the screen.

THE LOWDOWN: Another disappointment by Lee, spending so much effort and money to make an 'epic' that is so devoid of emotion connection and audience involvement.


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