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Saturday, January 29, 2005

What Makes a Hero ?

Just finished watching the film "Hero" starring Jet Li, and a first tier cast of Asian actors. Most of whom I didn't recognize due to my over consumption of North American / Hollywood films. While I've never written a movie review, I thought it would be interesting to at least write down a few thoughts about the film. Part of my reason for blogging, is to become a better writer, and to tackle things I've never done.

Hero is considered a "swordsmen" movie. Got that phrase from watching the bonus features on the DVD ;) As I'm sure you can guess, it means pretty much all the action scenes use swords. This makes it different, from other martial arts movies where most of the fighting is done hand to hand. The "swordsmen" type movie, certainly gives the director a lot more to work with visually.

While the action sequences are certainly mesmerizing, what struck me most, was the amount of emotion and character development they conveyed. Action sequences in Hollywood movies are generally pure eye candy. While the action sequences in Hero are mesmerizing, they also propel the story, and aid in the character development. Specifically, I'm thinking of the fight scene in the forest which takes place in a whirlwind of yellow leaves around combatants dressed in flowing red robes. The character Flying Snow, speaks volumes by her lack of interest in engaging her assailant during this scene. Her sense of apathy creates tension, causing the viewer to wonder if she will even survive the duel, while at the same time, it's obvious that if she really cared, her opponent would be dead in seconds.

It's really the little things that make this movie so memorable. The way the edge of a blade can break the surface of a glass lake, as it propels it's master through the air. Where the Matrix coined the phrase "Bullet-Time", I think Hero owns the phrase "Droplet-Time". Jet-Li floats through droplets frozen in air, splattering each one on the way to deliver a fatal stroke. A droplet flies through the air from a battle of flying men over a crystal lake to land on the cheek of a recently departed loved one, and brings the battle to a dramatic end. Flying arrows that look like a sky of locusts. A rift of air cuts through a river of flowing leaves on the tip of a sword.

It really is a remarkable film. Visually stunning and vibrant with dramatic colours that shift with the tone and flow of the plot. One story told from several very different, but believable perspectives, that leave the viewer wondering . . . "which one is true?". And in between the story telling, are the poetic beautiful ballets disguised as action sequences, epic battle scenes, duels, and inner battles the characters fight within themselves. While a little different than what you may be used to watching, Hero is really a piece of art, that will draw you in and take you away, if you let it.


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