Friday, April 18, 2008

Three Kingdoms: A Review

I’m a thoroughbred Chinese who is not well-versed in Chinese (hence dubbed as banana* by many), yet I always love to know more about China, her history and her literature. I am also amazed at how wise and clever ancient Chinese are, especially those who lived in the era of Three Kingdoms (三国时代). That is why I love reading Romance of The Three Kingdoms (三国演义). I think I still have the English Translated Comic version of the ever famous Chinese literature (in 10 volumes).

The story, or rather, the history of the Three Kingdoms was set in between 220AD and 280AD, where the Han Dynasty (汉朝) was fallen and broken into many small kingdoms. Eventually, three great superpowers, namely Wei (魏), Shu (蜀), and Wu (吴), respectively led by three great conquerors Cao Cao (曹操), Liu Bei (刘备), and Sun Quan (孙权), maintained. The literature outlines how these there superpowers came into power, how the leaders were led by their super-wise advisors, how the kingdoms were locked in a stalemate position, and how they were eventually fell into the Kingdom of Jin (晋). It is one of China's Dark Ages, between Han and Jin Dynasties.

The movie Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon (三国之见龙卸甲) revolved around a warrior named Zhao Zilong / Zhao Yun (赵子龙 / 赵云) (played by Andy Lau), who boldly served with his loyalty to his Shu Kingdom, with the hope of re-uniting China and eventually returning to his hometown of Chang Shan. He befriended a senior warrior Luo Ping'an (罗平安) (played by Sammo Hung), with whom they were sworn as brothers. In a very short time, Zilong rose to be a prominent warrior, and because of his bravery, Liu Bei (played by dunno-who :-P) named him one of the five great warriors of Shu Kingdom. However, after decades of fighting, the seemingly neverending war had persisted even after a new Shu King (son of Liu Bei) was enthroned. In his final battle, he has to face the ruthless Cao Ying (曹营) (played by Maggie Q), granddaughter of the Wei Tyrant Cao Cao (played by Damian Lau). As smart and bold as he was, he had yet to face the most unexpected, that placed him on a thin line of victory and defeat. Would he be able to fulfill his destiny? What would he eventually earn in all his battles?

My part of the review. Being so much detached from the story, I forgot that Zilong came from the Kingdom of Shu, so I thought the story was deviated from the history. Later did I recall that Zilong is always known as that young warrior of Shu Kingdom, bold and vigilant, who won every battle he led. The marvelous thing was, Andy Lau in his mid-40’s was cast as Zilong (he was supposed to very young, in his 20’s when he began his expedition). At the end of the story, Zilong was in his 60's, played by the mid-40's Andy Lau too. *Shrugs* Well, if Andy could play the boy who grew tremendously fast in Wait Till You're Older (童梦奇缘), he could play Zilong with no problem.

Anyway, the story was so much revolved in Zilong that many main characters were played down. That included the loyalist Guan Yu / Guan Yunchang (关羽 / 关云长), the wise strategist Zhuge Liang / Kong Ming (诸葛亮 / 孔明), the next-to-clever advisor to Wu kingdom Zhou Yu (周瑜), the tyrannic maniac Cao Cao, and many others. Also, many interesting plots, like Burning of Ships, Arrow Capturing in the Mist, and Empty City Ruse were not included. Also, it portrayed Zilong as if he was invincible when he was young - he defied the entire army of Cao when he went out to save the son of his master Liu Bei. Wallau! Amazzzzzing!!!

A new character (never in history nor literature) was introduced, and that's none other than Ping'an. Well, he's seemingly not important in the story, but in the movie, he was given an important role to portray. And tell you what, I felt that Sammo Hung was deprived of action (martial arts action that is) in this movie. How sad...

Next, I must admit that I am sick of Maggie Q acting as villain again. Other than Mission: Impossible III, I couldn't think of any movie that she played as a good person. No, I don't think her portrayal as a seducer in the Hong Kong production Magic Kitchen (魔幻厨房) is considered good.

Anyway, being a fan of Romance, I like the war action scenes and plots. It is acceptable that this movie only lasts for 1:42 since it is a story of one man, though I would expect them to make another parallel story, maybe then evolving other interesting characters, like those I mentioned above. ** I would grade the movie 6.5 out of 10.

While searching for suitable cliparts for Romance, I happen to bump into this version of Chinese Chess. So hilarious!!! Hahahahahaha!!! But wait, why are there two flags on each side? Additional chess pieces?? Hahahahahahahah!!!


* Banana is a nickname for any Chinese who is not well-versed in the mainstream Chinese language (Mandarin), but educated and hence substantially fluent in English. The nickname is given because a banana has yellow skin (Chinese is yellow-skinned), but white inside (with a mind and character saturated by Western/Caucasian culture).

** I actually forgot that there is another movie under production. It's none other than John Woo's Red Cliff (赤壁)! Starring Takeshi Kaneshiro as Zhuge Liang and Tony Leung as Zhou Yu, I guess this movie would depict a more complete account in Romance. Looking forward to watching it in cinema!!!

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