Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Popcorn On - Hero

So, I got this a couple weeks ago and watched it a few days later, but haven't really had a lot of occasion to talk about it til now.  Now being that I've been thinking about it again and, honestly?  I'm not sure what to think about this movie.  So maybe if I write it out, it'll help me really figure it out.  And in the process give you guys sort of a pros/cons look at the movie from my perspectives and opinions.

Now, the first thing I'll point out, which I have to point out is that, well, you guys know I don't like wire-fu nonsense.  And this movie is rife with it.  But at the same time, it's not super bad with it, and doesn't completely use it as a crutch.  So while I sort of like the fight scenes, I can't really remember one beyond the awful parts I don't like.  Well, okay, a couple parts, but the movie seems more about the drama than the action.

It's really hard to explain the plot of the movie without spoiling what is "The Twist" that comes into play half-way or a little earlier through the film.  So, rather than dance around it, and with the fact that it's given away on the friggin' DVD case, I'm just going to spoiler it here and, basically throughout the entire article.  This is your fair warning, that if you want to watch the movie unblemished by pre-knowledge, you should probably stop reading now and wait til you've seen it.

The main character of the film is simply known as Nameless.  Yet he is a prefect of a small area under the King of Qin's domain.  (For those not in the know, a Prefect is sort of like a Governor or similar; basically in charge of running an area)  Nameless has dedicated his life to practicing his swordplay for reasons that aren't disclosed until fairly late in the film, but are apparent much earlier than that; those reasons being that he is bent on revenge against the man who killed his parents.  Because of that swordplay technique, he has been granted an audience with the King of Qin, as he has defeated three deadly assassins that the King put a bounty on after they tried to kill him and failed.

In true Tarantino style, the movie starts pretty much at the end and cuts back to earlier times to progress the movie along.  The first fight is between Nameless and the first Assassin, Long Sky, who specializes in a spear fighting style.  And it's probably the first really sour taste the movie gave me that almost made me stop watching it.  Because Nameless and Long Sky don't actually fight at the start; after Long Sky fights off a few guards like they're nothing, he and Nameless stand before one another in what is essentially a Go parlor and rather than fight with their weapons....they fight with their minds.

Except not really.  Without the movie magic, it would just be two guys standing in front of each other with a pretty neat song playing in the background for ten minutes.  The way they explain it is that it's a battle of wills, in that each of them have been able to size the other up and can play out the whole fight in their minds to determine the victor.  Then once one was decided in their minds, they fought for real.  Which lasted....not too long and unsurprisingly, Nameless wins.  I mean, absolutely zero surprise, the reason he's there is because he has the end of Sky's spear.

From there, the movie goes on to have Nameless get moved closer to the King.  As celebration for taking out more than one assassin, he is allowed within 20 paces of the King to drink with him.  As well as getting a ton of gold and land to rule over.  This is important, of course, but you don't really get why until the end.  Anyways, after that, the swords of the other two assassins, Broken Sword and Flying Snow are exposed, and the King asks him how he managed to defeat them, as they worked together as a deadly pair, for they were truly devoted to one another.

Without going too much into it, since it's a really really long section of movie with a log of exposition and not a lot of action, Nameless recounts a tale of how he gained their trust by assisting in warding off an attack of Qin archers and then managed to turn them against one another through sheer jealousy.  After Snow killed Sword, Snow's emotions were too unchecked and Nameless was able to defeat her easily.

Then the movie does something I really, really have to respect.  At this point in the story, the King and Nameless have been fairly pleasant to one another, but the King hasn't had a lot of his personality shown.  Sure, he wants to rule the land  Whatever, who doesn't.  But here, the King really kicks into high-gear by immediately calling Bullshit on Nameless' story.  He muses that Nameless is actually working with the three assassins, as he knows from his dealings with Snow and Sword that they wouldn't turn on one another.

And the best part?  He's right.  Mostly.

After the King tells his version of what he thinks happened with the entire plot, Nameless concedes the fact that he is indeed an Assassin working to take him down, for the King of Qin's armies destroyed his village and killed his family.  And then proceeds to tell the King the entire story of what really happened.

Basically, because Nameless has perfected this badass technique, they think he's the only person who will be able to successfully assassinate the King of Qin, and concoct this scheme to get him close enough to perform this technique which requires him to be within, you guessed it, 20 paces.  The battle with Sky happened mostly as he said it did, except the strike he took Sky down with wasn't fatal and he was recovering off somewhere from it.  A similar thing had to happen with Snow, who essentially stabs Sword to make sure she fights Nameless instead of him.  (He isn't killed by the stab, either.  She's pretty accurate herself!)

Here's where the movie really starts building to the ending climax.  Sword is essentially the reason why the first assassination attempt failed.  He fought the King while Snow held off the guards and during that fight, saw the true nature of the King.  He then refused to kill him, because, in his opinion, the King had the ability to unite the land under a peaceful rule.  (Spoiler:  He's right, too.)  In telling this to both Snow and Nameless, he effectively draws a battle line between the two of them by stating that the King will not be killed while he still breathes.

Throughout the movie, the toll of everything starts becoming more and more clear, and in the end, Nameless realizes the truth, much as Sword had.  After making his decision on whether to kill the King or not, which I won't say (I will say the King gives Nameless his sword to choose with), Sword and Snow have a confrontation over their conflicting beliefs regarding the king, and decide to fight for their convictions.  In order to make Snow believe him, that he wants to be with her, that he truly wants a land of peace, he doesn't block a fatal strike and Snow accidentally kills him, forcing her to see the truth as well.

The rest of the ending, I just won't say, as it really is pretty neat.  But I'm really not sure.  I like the story, I really like the style and use of color, but I didn't like the action, and that's sort of the Anti-What-I-Got-The-Movie-For.  A good story in a Kung-Fu/Action movie is a bonus, not a selling point.  Still, all in all, I would say that it was a worthwhile experience, and really insist that anyone who hasn't seen it (which, if you haven't seen it by this point in reading this, what the hell is wrong with you, I warned you) to do so, to form their own opinions on it.  As for whether I'll watch it again...I'm not sure.  I might.  Which might be sort of telling on my opinion of it as well.

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