|Another triumvirate of movie reviews. From the Hong Kong DVDs section, we first have Last Hero In China, a Jet Li movie of Wong Fei Hung. Unlike his other Hung movies, this one is quite fun, quite silly, and quite possibly packed with in-jokes I didn't get. The sort of silly is best described by example - a dying person tries to tell people the secret he has discovered, and they clap a hand over his mouth and won't let him speak because "in movies an injured person always dies right after telling the secret". The movie follows a fairly common old-school Kung Fu plot, with a baddie doing an animal-style of kung fu that beats the hero's animal-style, and the hero then seeing a different animal beat the animal that the baddie was doing, and making up a new kung-fu technique based on the winning animal. I think, in this movie, the plot was supposed to be something of a parody of itself, as Jet does rooster style kung-fu to beat up a giant centipede. Rooster style kung-fu involves having metal claws on his feet and a pointy beak strapped to his head.|
Also from the Hong Kong DVDs section is Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain. The first part of this movie is fantastic, feeling reminiscent of a cross between Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and Red vs Blue. The two seemingly-main characters seem amusingly adrift and pragmatic. "Whose orders do you obey?" "Er. Both of your orders?" "Insubordination! Kill him!" "No, wait! Um. Neither of your orders?" "That's even worse!" Unfortunately, after a promising and entertaining beginning, the movie somehow wanders off and turns into a movie one should only watch on some sort of hallucinogen. Swirly vortices abound, along with magic sparkly swords and drawn-onto-the-film-with-a-felt-tip-pen "blood crows". It's still moderately entertaining, but not nearly as good as it would have been if it had stayed with the "cowardly nonentity caught up in a plot he has no control over" archetype.
And not from the Hong Kong DVDs section, but quite thematic all the same, The Last Samurai. Not as boring as I expected, but still fairly boring. The most notable thing about the movie is that, even though it seemed to be intended to endorse the way of the samurai, it caused me to lose all respect for them. It seems to me that the samurai in the movie didn't understand their own code. Their refusal to adapt to the use of guns was puerile tradition-for-tradition's-sake. The way of the samurai wasn't really about being excellent at swordplay and archery, it was about being excellent at whatever you do, and they had lost sight of that.
A lot of people think that a gun is the great equaliser - that anyone with a gun is pretty much as good as anyone else with a gun - but that this is not the case can be very easily seen in the result of a game of paintball, twelve against one where the twelve have the advantageous position and are regular paintballers (so not entirely incompetent or unpracticed), but the one is a trained special forces expert. You can infer the result of this match from context. By the numbers it's not unlike any other martial art - one very competent person can defeat an almost unending stream of amateurs.
There's the "guns are dishonourable" excuse, but that holds no less true for arrows. There's certainly no dishonour in using the same weapon as your opponent. I can see how one might frown upon a ninja as dishonourable for using whichever weapon is most efficient - I'm sure a ninja wouldn't hesitate to use a machine gun against an army armed with bendy straws if that was his battle - but that doesn't make the machine gun dishonourable, even if you do have a silly code of conduct, it just makes the mismatch dishonourable. All the movie samurai did by insisting on using only bows and swords is force their opponents to be dishonourable by a code of conduct they didn't adhere to. Which is stupid. And I don't think "being stupid" was part of the code.
That's not really a review of the movie so much as a review of the things it made me think, but it functions as a review of the movie since it boils down to "the movie was boring, and made me think the exact opposite of what it intended, thus it's rubbish." [10:56] [1 comment]