Sunday, October 14, 2012

Movie Review: House of Flying Daggers

Due to a combination of thinking "Hmm, I haven't seen any wuxia films, except for Jade Warrior, in a while" and a headcold which told me it was totally a good idea to check out Chinese action movies/graphic novels that cross western and eastern comics (I'm too scared to even look at them yet), well, you have the reason for this week's review. The movie Hero was produced by the same people who made this film and I've seen that film but didn't like it that much. It was too slow for me and I just didn't care about any of the characters, obviously other people have liked it and I hoped that this movie was a bit faster paced and that that might help me enjoy it more.

House of Flying Daggers

Summary: The Tang dynasty is falling and the law has started to succumb as corrupt politicians and police everywhere run free. The House of Flying Daggers is a group of people who oppose them and steal from the rich to give to the poor which leads to a number of clashes between the groups. 

The Good: Funny enough this film did the same thing to me that Hero did, for about three-fourths of the movie everything seems rather straight-forward and the plot seems more like an excuse to string together fight scenes than anything else, and then they reveal that everyone's personal politics are actually much more complicated and it certainly makes looking back on this movie at least a lot more interesting. 

The Bad: I still maintain that a lot of the plot was there just so there would be fight scenes which, given the number of fight scenes and how some of them could have been cut out, that is a bit of a problem. I'm not sure which film I liked more (to be honest I keep thinking "I should really watch that Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon blu-ray we have now") but I think that Hero was the stronger film since it's plot was a bit more complicated and certainly more intriguing by the end. 

The Audio: I watched the film in it's native Chinese and didn't notice anything particularly noteworthy about the audio. There was a good use of silence when called for and there was plenty of what I refer to as "generic marital arts drumming" in the background. It all worked but just didn't stand out to me when everything was said and done. 

The Visuals: While many of the fights looked fairly nice, even though they had to be using wire work for over half of them it was very subtlety done, it was other parts of the movie that really caught my eye. There were some scenes in the second half that were almost all green (green scenery, green outfits, everything!) which made me realize that you really don't see mostly green scenes in American films or such and I was impressed that they managed to have such monochromatic scenes yet still look interesting (and not remind me of The Wizard of Oz at all). Another bit that really caught my eye was a conversation between two characters and the camera was very carefully positioned so you could see everything of one character accept their eyes and, while this normally annoys me in anime (since usually the artists just don't draw the eyes in/put shadows in where there shouldn't be shadows), it turns out that this is a fairly cool framing technique in live action material.

In the end, it was an alright film. I was doing some other stuff while watching it and if I hadn't I'm afraid I probably would have gotten bored. Oh well, considering what I could've checked out to watch while I was sick I think I got off lightly.