Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.
Hero is quite possibly the most beautiful movie that I have ever seen. The photography leaves me speechless. The directorial vision is flawless. This is truly a masterpiece...
* * *
People give up their lives for many reasons.
For friendship, for love, for an ideal
And people kill for the same reasons...
* * *
Hero is quite possibly the most beautiful movie that I have ever seen. Christopher Doyle's award winning cinematography merges perfectly with Dun Tan's lyrical score to illustrate director Yimou Zhang brilliant vision.
As a martial arts movie, it is bound to be compared with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but it is inherently different. In CTHD, Lee's camera dances with the fighters, rejoicing in their ballet like precision and grace. In Hero, Zhang's camera is static, embracing not the fighters, but instead celebrating the space that contains them. Zhang symbolizes that the conflict lies not with the combatants themselves, but with the worlds they represent, which he reflects in setting, costume and color. This synergy of style and philosophy owes much to Kurosawa, being in spirit reminiscent of both Rashomon and Ran. The essence of this movie owes more to Japan, than to its Hong Kong roots.
One all-too-brief fight sequence between Flying Snow (Maggie Cheung) and Moon (Ziyi Zhang) takes place in an autumn forest, filled with crimson leaves. The leaves fly, becoming metaphors for both tears and blood, both of which underlie this tragic but essential confrontation. As the incredible camerawork captures the motion, the fabulous choreography unfolds, performed with grace and beauty by the two skilled, scarlet-clad protagonists. Yet their fight becomes but a backdrop to the story told by the leaves. Were this scene the only content of the DVD, it would still be worth the money. I have run out of superlatives... words fail me.
The central story of the plot is a series of Rashomon-like flashback accounts which tell how one Nameless Hero (Jet Li) defeats three assassins -- Sky (Donnie Yen), Broken Sword (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) and Flying Snow -- who seek to kill the King of Qin (Daoming Chen), the most powerful warlord in China. The conversation between warrior and king sets the structure through which the story unfolds. This meeting is plainly told, with simple cinematography and few devices (not counting the billion extras). While Yimou Zhang undoubtedly intends this plainness to act as a setting for the gems it contains, at times, it becomes humorless, heavy and over-wordy. This is, however, the movies only weakness.
The tales themselves are brilliantly told. The incredible choreography and wire-work is masterfully performed by the talented cast. The photography leaves me speechless. The directorial vision is flawless. This is truly a masterpiece.
The acting, which is in a sense almost secondary in a martial arts movie, is more than up to the task. The love story/triangle between Broken Sword, Flying Snow and Moon is particularly touching with excellent performances from all concerned. In Hero (as in House of Flying Daggers the other recent Yimou Zhang classic,) Ziyi Zhang proves that CTHD was no fluke. Both with her fight skill and her acting, she seems set to achieve true megastar status. While Jet Li carries the lead role well, there is little chance for the humor and charm that he showed in Kiss of the Dragon.
Though the overall plot is not quite as engaging as CTHD, the cinematography is at least its equal, and the choreography/fight sequences are better. If you liked CTHD, you will probably like Hero too. Martial Arts purists may even prefer it. If this is typical of the quality of movie Hong Kong plans to produce, then Hollywood better take note. The mainstream US studios are producing a seemingly endless stream of mindless drivel and lame, poorly-conceived retreads, which pale before a movie of this quality. If they want to end the box-office slump, they better get their act together.
The DVD for this movie comes in the original Mandarin with sub-titles and, as usual, several alternative dubbings including English. I chose to watch the English version because my Mandarin is a little rusty and I wanted to watch the fight scenes. No matter what version you watch, this is an excellent movie. I give it five stars. Were it within my power, I would give it ten.
* * *
Hero has one sensuous scene that is funnier than it is revealing, and comic book, almost bloodless, violence -- no reason not to let the kids watch. I am not sure they will understand the philosophy, but they should enjoy the action.
* * *
Hero (Ying xiong) (2002)
Directed by Yimou Zhang
Written by Feng Li, Bin Wang and Yimou Zhang
Jet Li ... Nameless hero
Tony Leung Chiu Wai ... Broken Sword
Maggie Cheung ... Flying Snow
Ziyi Zhang ... Moon
Daoming Chen ... King of Qin
Donnie Yen ... Sky
Original Music by Dun Tan
Violin solos by Itzhak Perlman
Cinematography by Christopher Doyle
Presented by Quentin Tarantino
* * *
Read all 25 Reviews
Write a Review
Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older