STORM WARRIORS - A CGI Extravaganza
STORM WARRIORS (martial arts fantasy)
Cast: Aaron Kwok, Charlene Choi, Ekin Cheng, Nicholas Tse, Simon Yam and Tang Yan
Director: Oxide and Danny Pang
Time: 112 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)
PREAMBLE: This visual feast inspired by comic-book writer Ma Wing Shing's 'Fung Wan' series is arguably the most highly anticipated Asian movie of the year. Although some may see this as a sequel to the successful Storm Riders (of 1998), Storm Warriors boasts a new storyline involving the same heroes with Aaron Kwok and Cheng Ekin reprising their roles as Striding Cloud and Whispering Wind respectively.
However, the big buzz of the industry is the helming of the film by the Brothers Pang, the maverick duo who gave the world such hits as The Eye and Bangkok Dangerous (both Asian and Hollywood versions). Danny Pang was also involved with The Storm Riders as its co-editor.
THE SKINNY: The story arc is derived from the Death Battle comic book in which the evil Japanese warlord, Lord Godless (Simon Yam), wants to get his hands on the magical Dragon Bones so that he can rule China unimpeded and unchallenged. Godless manages to capture the Emperor (Patrick Tam) and imprisons his warriors. Among the prisoners are Cloud (Kwok) and the elder statesman Nameless (Kenny Ho). Later, Wind (Cheng) comes to the rescue and the trio is badly wounded.
Meanwhile, the heroes seek the help of the venerable Lord Wicked (Kenny Wong Tak Bun) who advises Wind to take the 'evil path' to master the martial arts skills he needs to save his nation from Godless and his son, Heart (Nicholas Tse). This 'Evil Wind' saga presents another subplot that is pursued in the second half of the movie.
THE REVIEW: Just like the CGI-laden 2012, the Pang Brothers make no bones about Storm Warriors being anything but an expansive and expensive computer-effects extravaganza. Towards this end, the effects and stunts, backed by choral voices and thundering drumbeats, are fantastic and sometimes even breath-taking. The film-makers seem so proud of the fantasy-action pieces that they keep on repeating them, showing them in slow-motion and from different angles and close-ups. This drags the fighting sequences on a bit, making them lose whatever sense of urgency or danger they may have generated.
However, the usual weaknesses of the Brothers Pang remain unresolved. The characters lack emotional depth, the story flow is rather confusing, and the dialogue can be rather lame. Attempts at comedy flop too especially when Lam Suet's Piggy King turns out to be underused. Still, the female supports, Charlene Choi (as Wind's love interest, Second Dream) and Tang Yan (as Cloud's aide's aide Chu Chu, pictured above) are a welcome balance to offset the male-macho leanings of the plot.
THE LOWDOWN: Should delight CGI action fans.