Film review: Hero



Unlike Tarantino and so many of his generation I never spent days in Chinatown film theatres soaking up triple martial arts bills, so I can’t namedrop directors, scenes or moves from Chinese or Hong Kong classics. In fact I hate to say it but the wire-work still looks a little silly to me. Ignorance aside however, surely the greatest expression of the genre has come with Zhang Yimou’s Hero, so much so that it doesn’t seem necessary to go back through Jet Li’s catalogue.

Here he stars as ‘Nameless’, a mysterious martial arts genius who appears at the court of Qin claiming to have rid the King (Chen Daomin) of three peerless assassins, Sky (Donnie Yen), Broken Sword (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) and Snow (Maggie Cheung Man Yuk). The setting is China of the 3rd century BC, when the land is ravaged by the wars between seven kingdoms.

If nothing else, go and see the film for meticulously crafted visuals. Almost every shot is perfection, perfectly composed and vibrant with colour. Perhaps there are some plot and style issues which would benefit from a greater understanding of Chinese cultural norms; the final moral behind the story was one I found difficult to come to terms with, some have said the film is a ringing endorsement of the current oppressive Chinese regime, and a Chinese audience might have connected better with some of the more melodramatic moments. But this is an epic story, so melodrama can be forgiven.

But putting all that aside, the film is stunning, and some scenes left me open-mouthed with wonder and amazed at the technical and artistic achievements of the filmakers. I have never seen colour used with such boldness and beauty. The one advantage of it coming so late to Australian screens is that we won’t have to wait long for the director’s next, supposedly even more impressive film, House of Flying Daggers.

Four autumn leaves out of five.

Garden State

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. anaglyph
    Nov 24, 2004 @ 06:19:29

    Hero Trivia:
    *All the post production sound, including foley, sound editing an d mixing and music editing was done in Australia.
    *All the CG visual effects for Hero were done in Australia.
    *The forest in which the fight scene between Flying Snow and Moon takes place, really does look like that. The production had someone camping out on the location waiting for the leaves to look just right, before calling in the shooting crew.
    *Miramax was about to chicken out of showing Hero in the US until Quentin Tarantino stepped in and offered to plaster his name all over it. This canny move served both the film, which went to the top of US box office for a few weeks, and Tarantino, whose ego continues to expand exponentially.

  2. UniversalHead
    Nov 24, 2004 @ 06:28:28

    Excellent trivia, thankyou sir.