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In Hero, we watch three versions of the same story play out. We hear the story of Nameless (Jet Li), a warrior summoned by the future Emperor of China to tell his tale on how he defeated the three assassins (Flying Snow, Broken Sword, and Long Sky) who want to kill the Emperor. Then the Emperor gets his turn at the truth. And then we see the true story.

What I Thought

If I begin thinking about the movie, I start to again feel the drunken stupor I felt after seeing this two nights ago. Eye candy from beginning to end, with amazing martial arts, colors, movement, and wonderful acting. I don't know where to start.

OK. Let's go bottom up. First, this is a martial arts movie. Plenty of great fighting scenes along with the whole mystical flying business seen in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Nameless fights the three assassins in all three versions of the story, and it's amazing. I can't help but compare it to ballet in its grace (except that I don't really like ballet, but nevermind). One scene has Nameless and Sword lightly skimming a clear mirrorlike pond of water surrounded by a forest and mountains. Beautiful. Another has Flying Snow (an amazingly wonderful Maggie Cheung who reminded me of Michelle Yeoh from Crouching Tiger) fighting Moon (Ziyih Zhang the young fighter from Crouching) in a forest with yellow leaves falling all over the place. My breath was taken away when all of a sudden all the yellow leaves turn red.

So we've got great action sequences. Check.

Second, it's in Mandarin with English subtitles. Luckily, you don't spend much time reading (the sometimes clumsily translated) subtitles, because most of the story is not dialogue. You get the basic gist of the story and then get to the fighting. Now, I say "clumsily translated" even though I don't know Mandarin. I just trust on faith that the original has better lines than "you did something stupid last night" and chalk it up to unimaginative translators. Subtitling really is as important as scriptwriting, since obviously we experience a foreign movie's dialogue through it.

So (slightly) cheesy subtitle translations. Check.

Third. The acting. Jet Li gives a good understated performance. Funny enough, I read somewhere that the movie's name really is "Broken Arrow" but wanted to link the movie to the only American-recognizable actor in the movie. Go figure. But the real star (I think) is the woman playing Flying Snow, Maggie Cheung. She's amazing. Her face displays both hate and cruelty and a world-weary motherliness I found amazing.

Acting. Check. And check (I didn't mention Broken Sword, who's awesome as well!).

Fourth. The costumes. Awesome! Check.

Fifth. The visuals. Wow. The colors. The fabrics. The scenery!!!! In each of the three retellings we see different costumes and different colors used, and it is great. We even see the same room be different colors (via a camera filter, or maybe computer-generated).

Triple check.

Sixth. The story itself. It's a fairly simple story, but there are plenty of symbolic "moments". Picture yellow leaves flying, Moon then tells Snow "You did something stupid last night" and watch Snow's face and the leaves bursting into red. I'm not going to give away what happens, but that is such a wonderful moment. Or when the Emperor is fighting Broken Sword (in a flashback) and Sword has his moment of clarity and understanding, all the billowing fabric falls away in symbolic recognition of his own barriers falling. Just wonderfully communicated stuff. I wish some of the Hollywood crap out there would take a lesson from this movie in terms of subtlety and grace.

Check squared. Cubed? Let's talk about Power Series...

Sooooo. I liked it. Obviously, for those of you who don't like subtitles, or fighting movies, or whatever aren't going to like this movie. But I did, and I can't wait for the DVD version. And I'm going to see it in the theaters again. Wow.


All photos and text copyright Ryszard Kilarski, unless otherwise noted. Clip art, drawings, paintings are either free domain or copyrighted by the artists.