What does two artists fighting look like? Imagine if you stuck a couple of painters in the Octagon and let them square off in "Ultimate Fighter 50: Battle of the Wussies." This is precisely the sort of feeling I got from watching "Hero," which is so obviously trying to outdo "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," it's like being accosted by Hari Krishnas trying to sell hand-painted postcards or something.
The right way to outdo "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" would have been to include more fighting scenes. Instead, "Hero" takes the flowers and leaves approach. Every single fight scene seems to occur in some kind of bizarre environmental condition. There's some fighting above trees. There's another fight above water. Director Yimou Zhang seems to have some giant hard-on for primary colors because half the time, watching the film is like staring at an ad for Disney paint.
Personally, I'm not big on the "Rashomon" effect where the same story is told from different points of view. In the real world, we often refer to that as the "what the hell is going on?" effect. As far as I could figure, Nameless (Jet Li) is assigned by the King of Qin (Daoming Chen) to rid the kingdom of several assassins. The audience learns of the story as Nameless tells it to the King. The Assassins all have freakishly stupid names like Broken Sword (Tony Lueng), Flying Snow (Maggie Cheung) and Long Sky (Donnie Yen). The assassins threaten the King's ability to unite the warring states.
Basically, at the end of the film, I couldn't figure out why anybody was doing anything. There seems to be more noble sacrifice in this movie than in the entire history of combat movies. In a martial arts movie, I don't go for the color or the humanity or the love. I go to see one person get his or her ass kicked by another person. It's a remarkably simple concept that filmmakers just can't get right.
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