Movie Review: Hero (2002)
I donít have much to say about Zhang Yimou's ďHeroĒ but wanted to jot down a few notes so Iíll know in five or 10 years that Iíve already seen it. Because I might forget.
Itís kind of forgettable.
Itís beautiful,†don't get me wrong.†The direction and art direction and cinematography are all stunning. Plus, as in early Hollywood, thereís a cast of literally thousands. Chinese soldiers apparently make for cheap labor. And have we had five bigger stars of Chinese cinema in the same film?
But as a story, it goes nowhere.
Itís ancient times in China, before China was China. At this point itís six constantly warring states, and the King of the Qin state (Chen Daoming), a murderous, tyrannical SOB, has recently survived an assassination attempt. Into his heavily guarded capital city arrives a man called Nameless (Jet Li), who has apparently killed the three attempted assassins: Sky (Donnie Yen) and the lovers, Broken Sword and Flying Snow (Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung). He tells him how he did it. And with each story, he is allowed to move closer to the King.
Quickly we realize heís probably an assassin himself. Which he is.
Most of the movie is Namelessí stories about how he killed the others, and most of these stories are lies. Theyíre all in league with each other. Kinda sorta. The lovers are at odds, and Broken Sword has a disciple, appropriately named Moon (Zhang Ziyi), who is in love with him, and ... Etc. Etc.
We actually get very little of Sky/Donnie Yen. Heís in and out quickly.
The bigger point: We watch a lot of stuff that never happened, all of which leads to the moment when our titular hero doesnít act.†If you boiled it down, the movie is this:
- A guy sits before a king
- He tells a bunch of lies
- He doesnít do what he came to do
- Heís killed
- The End
If there was a good reason to not kill the king I mightíve liked “Hero” more, but his reasoning is both ridiculously far-sighted and chest-thumpingly patriotic. The murderous king is the man who wants to unite the six warring states into one. Nameless must let him live so China can become China. He becomes the titular hero not by doing great deeds but by sacrificing himself so China may live.†
Again, there may not be a more beautiful movie to look at: the colors, the leaves, the water, the soldiers, the actors. But it signifies not much.