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Hero (2004)

Action & Adventure and Art House & International movie directed by Yimou Zhang

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More About Visual Splendor Than About Story

  • Dec 3, 2004
  • by
HERO is Yimou Zhang's first attempt at a martial arts film - and the novelty shows. As the featurettes explain, he dreamed of making a sword film, searched for a story, and finally wrote his own story that would allow him to express his excitement about the genre.

So, the story is minimal - Nameless Hero (Jet Li) gradually approaches the King of the province Qin as he relates how he protected the King from potential assassins. The film is done in flashbacks to show how Nameless Hero accomplished his feats. In the end a plot is revealed that brings the movie to an odd resolution. And that is really all the story is about.

The beauty here is in the choices of various colors to depict the various stages of Nameless Hero's quest: oranges become yellows become reds become greens become whites, etc. The settings are placed within the vast deserts of China and in palace courtyards. The costumes and settings are magically lush and stunningly beautiful. The action is the expected highly choreographed martial arts sequences that appear more like ballet than fighting. The huge supporting casts of armies are amazingly well staged with epic action and surreal results.

The overall message is about the way the once divided China of 2000 years ago became united into what is called 'the Land'. That is really all we have as far as directorial message mission. It matters little that the acting is minimal and wooden, that the use of flashbacks and revised flashforwards leaves some mystery as to which of the characters have been killed on several occasions (!). The pleasure is in the looking - and this is a beautiful, active piece of art to watch.

Grady Harp

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More Hero (2004) reviews
review by . November 19, 2010
If CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON is a good book brought to the screen, then HERO is stunning poetry splashed across the silver screen in vivid colors, artful battles, and wonderful drama.      During China's warring states period, the country was divided into seven kingdoms: Qin, Zhao, Han, Wei, Yan, Chu and Qi, and these kingdoms fought violently for years. Understandably, thousands of people died ... and it is this very situation that serves as the narrative backbone for …
review by . May 08, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
I bought this movie because I've become interested in the music of Tan Dun, a Chinese composer whose opera TEA is sensational on DVD. There really isn't much of Tan Dun in HERO, but the sound track is extremely artful and effective as a counterpoint to the spectacular cinematography. The visual splendor of this movie is what carries the action (or lack of action) and the actors. The "story" is complex, intellectually provoking, almost a cultural essay rather than an action flick. The acting is less …
review by . August 10, 2006
Jet Li came back to Hong Kong with this film. `Hero' is two sides of a tale as presented by Nameless (Jet Li), a mere Prefect who defeated three deadly assassins and the King of Qin (Daoming Chen), the man the assassins wished to kill. Nameless weaves his heroic though modest story of how he killed the assassins, but the King remains unconvinced, spinning his own version of how he believed events unfolded. It's reminiscent of Akira Kurosawa's RASHOMON, and is a great way of developing a mystery …
About the reviewer
Grady Harp ()
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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About this movie


Director Zhang Yimou brings the sumptuous visual style of his previous films (Raise the Red Lantern,Shanghai Triad) to the high-kicking kung fu genre. A nameless warrior (Jet Li,Romeo Must Die,Once Upon a Time in China) arrives at an emperor's palace with three weapons, each belonging to a famous assassin who had sworn to kill the emperor. As the nameless man spins out his story--and the emperor presents his own interpretation of what might really have happened--each episode is drenched in red, blue, white or another dominant color.Herocombines sweeping cinematography and superb performances from the cream of the Hong Kong cinema (Maggie Cheung,Irma Vep,Comrades: Almost a Love Story; Tony Leung Chiu-Wai,In the Mood for Love,Hard Boiled; and Zhang Ziyi,Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). The result is stunning, a dazzling action movie with an emotional richness that deepens with every step.--Bret Fetzer
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Director: Yimou Zhang
Genre: Foreign, Action, Adventure
Screen Writer: Yimou Zhang, Bin Wang, Feng Li
DVD Release Date: November 30, 2004
Runtime: 99 minutes
Studio: Miramax
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