Holding out for Hero

The chinese martial arts movie “Hero” has just been released in Ireland. Entertainment Ireland have a brief review here
I must confess I thought it was a wonderful movie. I’ve read quite a few reviews that compare it unfavourably with “crouching tiger, hidden dragon” but I disagree. Also my immediate memory of “crouching tiger” doesn’t permit me to make a direct comparison but my first impression is of a movie that I liked far more. Overly worthy perhaps but satisfying all the same.
The plot goes a bit like this.

For over a decade the King of Qin has lived in fear of assassination from a trio of powerful warriors in the unconquered regions. This time has come to an end with the arrival of Nameless, a middle-ranking official in his kingdom, who brings news that he has defeated them all. As Nameless claims his rewards in the presence of the King he relates his story of how he defeated the assassin Sky and used the love between Broken Sword and Flying Snow to defeat them. However the King questions some of the things that he is being told

I won’t tell you any more about the plot, instead urging you to see the movie.
However I read quite a few reviews of the movie that would have dissuaded me from seeing it so I’ll use this opportunity to say why they’re all wrong, the critics misguided and why in my not-so-humble opinion it’s near perfect.
All the critcs agree that this film looks absolutely fantastic. The cinematography is inspired. A colourful cavalcade of sweeping shots, lithe balletic movements and bold, dramatic scenery. And that’s just the first 10 minutes. So many hollywood directors could learn from Yimou Zhang’s masterful integration of light and sound, colour and contrast to form a seamless whole. Indeed, such is the beauty of the spectacle that the dialogue may be superfluous. There are many scenes where the ‘connectedness’of actors and their surroundings is evident. All the elements (wind, water, earth and fire)articulate the characters emotions. Typical chinese martial arts movie then!
Ok so here’s what I think of the criticisms:

  1. The plot is convoluted and doesn’t work. I found it interesting, not overly complex and the juxtaposition of the story, the unravelling of truths and the cinematic shifts in colour that accompanied this were a joy to behold
  2. It doesn’t have the emotional resonance of crouching tiger Who the hell cares? In my opinion it’s a more accessible movie, more entertaining and it definitely has an emotional resonance. Perhaps not one that many western audiences will want to see because it expouses the sacrafice of the individual towards a greater good. (This ain’t a hollywood movie kids)
  3. We never empathise with the characters, they’re not developed as human beings, more as stereotypes of their Fidelity, Love and Idealism This is a silly criticism. The movie is clearly supposed to be fable. It’s not some bloody soap opera or reality TV show. When expect the characters to be well rounded when the whole movie is about high morals, contrasts, archetypes and their portrayal with a rich tapestry of colour

For me this movie had two important lessons that we often ignore.

  1. There are times when the good of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Human history has thought us this time and time again as painful as it is to learn.
  2. Hatred infects all aspects of our lives and ultimately those we love suffer most because we choose to hate.

To summarise. Go see the movie, you may like it!