I should have left this flick to the end of the year. Everything else is just going to be boring now.
Bonkers story, but who cares?
At this point, I would usually summarise the plot of the film. A couple of sentences just to give you a bit of a primer on what the flick is about. That’s not really going to be possible today. I have just watched this movie twice and I’m still not sure exactly what I saw. There was something about a Palace courtesan who didn’t want any women getting pregnant except her so she had her favoured eunuch kill any pretty maids, but one escaped. And there was a group of master swordsmen who travelled around the countryside rescuing people, and a mythical city full of treasure out in the desert, and there was an inn that was pretty much a wretched hive of scum and villainy.
There is a reason for this uncharacteristic confusion however. Flying Swords of Dragon Gate may be the single most visually astonishing film I have ever laid eyes on. From the first shot to the last it is a two-hour spectacle of dazzling colour, dizzying camera moves, and the finest use of 3D since Avatar. Legendary writer/director/producer Tsui Hark is the first filmmaker to attempt to translate the wuxia genre into the third dimension, and to be honest, everybody else should just give up and go home. I can’t see this being bettered anytime soon. Wuxia movies are of course characterised by their magical fight scenes, and the action assembled for this film is nothing short of jaw-dropping. Everything is a weapon, from the usual swords and flying daggers to ropes, logs, even golden thread in the thrilling climax.
Flying Swords ostensibly stars Jet Li as the great fighter Zhou Huai’an, but it is really more of an ensemble cast. Tsui has brought along two of the three leading ladies from his modern romantic comedy All About Women, Zhou Xun and Kwai Lun-mei, and there is a dual role for Chen Kun as the evil eunuch and his lookalike. Kwai was the highlight for me, playing a Tartar warrior princess who is quite capable of killing everyone around her just for fun.
Technically a sequel to Tsui’s own 1992 picture New Dragon Gate Inn, which was itself a remake of the 1966 Dragon Gate Inn, Flying Swords is an original story that doesn’t require prior knowledge. The story may be overly-plotted and confusing, the characters may be rather thinly drawn, but today none of that matters. This is all about the spectacle, and what a grand spectacle it is. If you have a 3D TV, Flying Swords of Dragon Gate belongs in your Blu-ray collection. If you still think it’s all just a gimmick, this is one of the films that might just change your mind.
Excuse me, I’m off to watch this again.