Jet Li plays a famed swordsman who apparently kills off three deadly assassins who were trying to kill the king of Qi, one of seven territories in ancient China.
The swordsman is granted a private audience with the king where he recounts his story. This subtitled film is mostly told in flashbacks.
Like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hero features sword fighters who fly through the air, and defy gravity. The action is such that realism was not a goal here. The massive army of Qi marches on a calligraphy school to kill two of the aforementioned assassins in a spectacular hail of arrows. Released in simultaneously, the arrows emerge from the troops in such huge quantities and so close together that they look like clouds. Some of the action scenes are unintentionally funny and a reminiscent of what we saw in Kill Bill..seriously. Look for the scene for the cup of water in the library.
Many scenes are color coordinated. Witness the scene with Moon and Flying Snow. Moon is out to avenge the death of her master, and lover Broken Sword. Flying Snow commands vortexes of yellow leaves that constantly fall like snow to repel Moon. Suddenly, they all turn red at key moment. Several scenes are visually stunning, but they don’t make up for the poor script to make this a must-see film.
Director Yimou Zhang fails to draw the audience in, though, with a truly compelling tale. There are moments of apparently deep significance with the relationship between swords and calligraphy, but it merely washes over without being profound.
Some people are touting this 2002 release (also on DVD from Amazon.com) as being Oscar material but it is too tedious and dull, in my opinion. I found myself anxiously waiting for it to end, actually. If you liked Ang Lee’s superior Crouching Tiger film, be aware that this film is nowhere near as compelling.