The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate (2011)
Director: Tsui Hark
Tagline: 3D update to a early 90s classic
Set around three years after the events of Dragon Inn (also known as New Dragon Gate Inn, which was itself a remake of a 1967 film). The eunuchs are up to their old tricks, but this time they have split into western and eastern and are ravaging the countryside, killing all who stand against them.
For some reason eunuchs have a propensity to becoming twisted and cruel, much like Darth Vader, who was technically a eunuch after having it burnt off in the fire, now you know the real reason why he went NOOOOOOOOO!
Jet Li stars as Zhao Huai'an who is one of the only people left opposing the rule of the eunuchs. He demonstrates this by beheading an evil eunuch in the first scene and is on the run for the rest of the movie. His character goes missing for half the film also, a bold move when he is promoted as the star.
Knowing that he is going to be tracked down, Zhao decides to take the fight to the lead eunuch on his ship. Only to be almost beaten and one of his assistants gets killed. There is a really bad dude with a face mask who returns later.
One of the plots concerns a palace concubine who is on the run after getting pregnant. She is rescued at a river crossing by a fake Zhao Huai'an, who then takes her to the Dragon Gate and then onto the inn to hide out.
The inn is near abandoned due to the upcoming 60 year storm that they fear will destroy everything. The only people left after some Mongols, the two women and some government agents in disguise.
It gets very confusing with the scenes with the inn as a lot of characters are introduced in a short time and it turns out most of the people at the inn are in league with each other in order to try and get the treasure from the hidden city that the storm is going to unearth.
Added to this is the doppelganger subplot and the backwards and forwards between the fort where the real eunuch leader is stationed and Zhao sneaking around and I just wanted the action to start.
I liked when the government agents got sick of all the sneaking around and the passwords and just started fighting the people outside the inn even when it was there own people.
Most of the time the 3D worked great in this film, much like the Cave of Forgotten Dreams and the first part of Avatar, it works best when the effect is used to bring the audience into environments that you cannot experience to in the real world. The best of these in this film were the flight through the masts of the naval shipyard and before the attack at the Red Rock Gully where one character is observing the action from two chains suspended above the river.
Due to all the action and the subtitles jumping around the place, I did get a headache towards the end and I had to take my 3D glasses off when they started overdoing the flying knives going towards the screen. Jet Li only did one punch towards the scene that I saw. Some of the more impressive effects were the smaller ones, such as Jet Li’s hair ribbon fluttering in the wind.
The action in this movie is mostly swordplay and people jumping around a lot, but it is well handled considering the other movies this director has made. It is certainly better made than the Sorcerer and the White Snake and manages to do things like the fight inside the tornado without becoming over the top and silly like the previous film ended up being.
I do believe that this movie would stand up being viewed in 2D and some of the action scenes would be better for it, I was still glad to be able to watch it in 3D as not many people will get to do so as it was a limited run.
The characters were pretty much what you would expect from this sort of movie, the more interesting ones were the Mongol bandits who came across as some sort of ancient Chinese punks, especially the bandit leader who had a killer metal band she threw around like a Frisbee.
While not essential viewing compared to some of Tsui Hark’s earlier work, it is still a lot better than the super serious historical Chinese epics or all the “Happy Birthday China” movies that seem to be coming out at the moment.