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Director: Daniel Lee
Cast: Andy Lau, Maggie Q, Sammo Hung, Andy On, Vanness Wu, Ti Lung, Yu Rongguan, Pu Cunxin, Jiang Hongbo
RunTime: 1 hr 46 mins
Released By: Shaw & InnoForm Media
Rating: NC-16 (Battle Scenes)
Opening Day: 3 April 2008
His country torned by civil war, Zhao, a common man heeds the call of duty and from the humblest of roots rises through the ranks on wings of courage and craft to command an army with liberating the land from an evil warlord.
Inspiring by action, honor and a dream of unifying his divided nation, Zhao’s heroism becomes legend, but as the years pass and the throne changes hands the war still rages on. When a newly enthroned king decides peace can only be achieved by defeating the warlords once and for all, the ageing Zhao embarks on his final and greatest campaign, a road to adventure that will crown his name in glory for all time.
The Point -
Initially, the fast pace of setting up the characters story and very little chemistry between Andy Lau and Sammo Hung seems to be an indication that Director Daniel Lee (Dragon Squad) had produced a half baked tale of the three kingdoms and failed to impress again. But as the story went on, especially during the last battle, every pieces that seemly had been hastily laid, managed to gel together to bring across a message on the absurdity of war. Some parts of the movie sparks of great brilliant in capturing the attraction of the Romance of the Three Kingdom, particularity in the aspect of strategy, loyalty between brotherhood and the omniscience power of fate.
The Rant -
There’s much not to like about this movie.
The poster of Andy Lau and Maggie Q in this movie looked like a hybrid of Japanese Costume faking it to be a Chinese Period set. Speaking of Maggie Q, how did someone who received a top billing beside Andy Lau appears only in the third quarter of the show? Her character Cao Ying whom played the fictional granddaughter of Cao Cao definitely raised some eye brow in such imaginative liberties taken for this tale.
And why did Daniel Lee chose to tell this story in a hopscotch manner, skipping through the life of Zhao Zilong (Andy Lau), one of the supposedly great character in the much loved Romance of the Three Kingdom but only had bit’s of appearance in the novel. A fast forward manner that seems to take no pleasure in slowly building Zhao Zhilong’s character up, specially for viewers who are not well verse in the classic Chinese Literature. There was even an unnecessary inclusion of Zhao Zhilong’s love interest that was short and had made very little impact to the show.
As much as I was going to write this movie off as a bad take on the Romance of the Three Kingdom initially, there something in this movie that resonate with me that made me embrace this movie.
The first that sparkle for this movie was the brutality and brilliance of warfare strategy. Like a game of chess, when the situations required, the player must make necessary sacrificial moves to obtain the goal. While in chess, it seems like a might seems like a small deal as losing a Knight or a Bishop but in the game of war, it might be sending your comrades to a certain doom. It’s not an easy decision to make and this movie successfully portrays the dilemma of such necessary viciousness well. In those brief moments, what really shine was the ultimate understanding among the planners and the soldiers on what’s necessary and willingness to sacrifice for the greater good.
Then there were the shrewdness of characters in well known character such as Zhuge Liang and fictional one such as Cao Ying. Resurrection of the Dragon comes packed with interesting warfare that is akin to watching to masterful chess players playing a hard match. As again, in brief moments, it demonstrates how knowledge with the Meteorology and geographical could makes a world of difference in battle. It even showcases how one needs to be unscrupulous with their own troops in order to win the battle.
Then the movie offers a certain credible reasoning and answers to the initial dislike to how the first half of the story was set up. With the lengthy story of the original Romance of the Three Kingdom, it was a challenging feat to condense the tale. The choice of the director was to pick those necessary elements that were important in to the final arc and even though the end result was a patchy first half. To some, it would seems that the director was smart enough to litter seemly unimportant scenes in this show and when the time is ripe, the viewers could reflect back on what had happen before in those scenes and it served as a testament to what the characters, specially Zhao Zhilong was going through in the finale.
Take for example, the seemly unnecessary love interest scenes that showed Zhao Zhilong chancing into a moment of romance would later help build the burden of regret that he eventually felt at the last battle.
Somehow it felt that director Daniel Lee had gotten away with the patchy story works due to the fact that he had a group of fine actors giving fine performance. Even in minor supporting roles such as Vanness Wu’s Zhao Biao and Ti Lung’s Guan Yu, it felt that their real life experience and attitude seemly helped contribute a natural aura to the character in a short span of screen time. Vanness Wu’s brand of arrogance and bashfulness that was ever present in his pop life persona quickly helped build up the young and inexperience General who is fill his dad shoes. Ti Lung on the other hand with years of experience in the movie industry was a natural fit to play the majestic Guan Yu. His mere appearance on screen with the title of his character would mostly like gather the general consent among viewers.
Then there’s the major players, Maggie Q, Sammo Hung and Andy Lau whom all did a fine job in carrying over the patchy story. Maggie Q’s female general who played a musical instrument in the midst of war would probably drew the most flakes from critics and audience but personally I felt that it was one of her most memorable role so far. She showed a well balance of vulnerability and toughness that made her one of the most sympathies villains in recent movies. Her late inclusion although might felt like a marketing lie to use her name as one of the main cast in this movie, was essential to the story and personally I agreed that it was the right time and made the most impact for this movie.
Sammo Hung also initially felt miscast as Zhao Zhilong’s sworn brother who tried to aim high but often score low. However as the story progress, Sammo Hung’s years of experience in the acting field proved that he got the chops to endear the loser character to the audience and even gave it a sympathetic aura to him.
Lastly, Andy Lau’s recent records of film choices had been an impressive one, specially his last few period movies that had focused on the absurdity of war and it’s the same for Resurrection of the Dragon. He got the charisma and natural regal feel that made the jumpy story telling of his character a little easier to swallow. His portrayal of the old and determine Zhao Zhilong was one of his best heart wrenching performance in a period film yet. There are few actors that I would watched based on their choice of works and it had been a blast following Andy Lau’s fine line of recent works.
There you have it; these are the few defenses that I could provide for Resurrection of the Dragon. It’s had already drew a few disdain reviews from critics and I suspect it might not do that well with the Three Kingdom’s purist but then again, personally there are quite a few elements that were utterly enjoyable and memorable, specially the question that I gotten while watching this show,
“If life is a chess game, are you one of the pawns or the strategist moving the pieces?”
(Resurrection of the Dragon sparks brief but spectacular essence of capturing the sophisticated stratagem, vigor, brotherhood loyalty of the Romance of the Three Kingdom)