Hero – Jet Li, Ziyi Zhang, Maggie Cheung, Donnie Yen, Daoming Chen
Director: Zhang Yimou
The Cantonese beginning scrolling text reads something like this:
Two thousand years ago China was divided into seven kingdoms which battled for supremacy. The king of Qin was the most ruthless ruler, and he wanted to conquer the entire land and unify all under heaven. The other six kingdoms sent assassins to kill him.
When Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon came to the United States , it showed us how incredible Chinese filmmaking can be. The wire work, the martial arts ballet, and the intricate characters set in a visually stunning background of natural and man-made beauty that is China . Hero continues in this vein with the story of a man with no name, Nameless, who is allowed to approach the king from within 10 paces, which is a great honor as no one else is allowed to be within 100 paces. How he got there is the story which unfolds.
We learn of three other assassins who have made attempts on the king’s life; Sky, Flying Snow, and Broken Sword. Broken Sword has an apprentice named Moon, who is the young girl from Crouching Tiger . Nameless tells of a love triangle and his story of how he took down the skilled triumvirate. The flashback sequences are surreal as they show only the characters specifically involved, complete with incredible martial arts work. Nameless weaves his tale of victory and presents himself to the king as an ally. But the king is wise.
Cinematography is a dying art. Americans tend to be stuck in a rut, considering they live in a morass of Generica this is to be expected. The Chinese have not lost their touch. Hero is divided into several stories which all have their own color-tone to them. The colors have universal meaning and help teach the story, and make an artistic impression. When you see two green robed kung fu experts battling thousands of white robed soldiers, it’s just incredible. Water is used in a couple places as a significant character in the story.
In comparison to Crouching Tiger , the martial arts in this film have a lot more weapons involvement. The Flying Snow vs. Moon scene in the autumn forest is superb, as is the opening scene of Sky vs. Nameless. They are fast-paced sequences that never get boring or repetitive. Jet Li’s acting is quite impressive. The music in this film was also well done. The same style of music as Crouching Tiger was used, but I think they were original works. The stringed instruments played very well with the scenery and acting events.
Hero is far less religious than Crouching Tiger yet still relies on an underlying Taoist and Buddhist paradigm of temporal ethereality. The religious aspect comes out in a marriage of calligraphy and martial arts by Broken Sword, pondered by Nameless, and understood by the king of Qin. There is also an achievement of perfection by the martial artists which harkens to Buddhist enlightenment. I find these religious ideas to be a little silly, but they make for interesting movie fantasy drama.
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