Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon is a 2008 Hong Kong martial arts action drama film loosely based on parts of the classical Chinese novel Romance of Three Kingdoms. It was directed by Daniel Lee with a reported budget of US$25 … see full wiki
Amid the beloved historical epic tales of the "Battle of Three Kingdoms", arose three movies in 2008. The very mediocre "An Empress and the Warriors" with Donnie Yen, and late last year came the first chapter of John Woo's "Red Cliff". Daniel Lee's (Dragon Squad) "Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon" struck a few months earlier than Woo's star-studded film (which I will review later), and has Hong Kong's Andy Lau (Running on Karma) in the lead as the famous General Zhao Zhilong--yes the same guy in the video game named Zhao Yun in "Dynasty Warriors". The film has massive commercial appeal, and the film is beautifully shot. However, purists of the tales of the Three Kingdoms will be annoyed and repulsed, as the film does feel a little of empty and full of historical inaccuracies. (Hint: John Woo's overly exaggerated film about the three kingdoms isn't much better)
228 A.D, before the rise of the Jin Dynasty. The kingdoms of Shu, Wei and Wu are divided. Zhilong (Andy Lau) is a simple soldier from Changsan who becomes a legendary warrior under the employ of Liu (Yueh Huah) who rises from the ranks of the Shu forces to become one of the "Five Tiger Generals". Zhilong becomes famous for his many campaigns against Cao and the last surviving general of the "Five Tigers". Now, after many years of war, Zhilong is set to make his last stand against Cho's granddaughter--who has become a beautiful, cold and stoic warrior woman; Cao Ling (Maggie Q, Live Free and Die Hard).
The film is narrated by Pingan (Sammo Hung), Zhilong's oldest friend who joined the Liu army with him many years ago. The film is supposed to cover thirty years, Zhilong was a simple soldier who ascends to become a simple general and so the film feels a little too short. There are a lot of plot holes and several important parts missing, but then as a tale being narrated by Pingan who remained a simple soldier in the ranks, I can accept its shortcomings. Pingan never became a part of Zhilong's military unit until his final campaign. The viewer is privy to Zhilong's achievements through the musings of humble Pingan and it is rather hard for Sammo Hung to carry this burden, and purists will undoubtedly become disconnected. Zhilong is a renowned general in the Shu kingdom, he may be remembered as the "Spartan" of the Liu army--truly legendary and whose name struck fear in the hearts of his enemies.
Thankfully, Andy Lau does turn in a great performance and I am happy to say he isn't miscast. This may well be his best performance since his role in "The Warlords" with Jet Li. The plot may be a little too simple and doesn't reach Zhilong's epic grandeur, but Lau does the best of what he's got; Lau is playing a larger-than-life character and despite the simple plot, he manages to project the character competently. Maggie Q. is alluring as Cao Ling, and despite her limited screen time, she was exciting and enchanting to watch. The rest of the supporting cast isn't so bad, but we all have to remember that this is a film with Zhilong as its central focus.
Aside from the Pingan narrations, the real problems begin when the film has "add-on" characters played by some lesser known performers in the form of Vanness Wu, and Andy On; that seem to be mere attempts to give the young stars some exposure. (Maggie Q. is just so hot, I don‘t mind her at all) A lot of folks would be interested to see this film because of truly iconic characters played by accomplished actors such as Lau, Yueh Hua, Ti Lung, Chen Zhihui; but sadly the film does nothing with them. Zhilong may be the center of the film but all others, disappear after the first half. This film definitely needed to be longer and the significance of the other four "Tiger Generals" to Zhilong a little more fleshed out.
The action sequences have the usual style of Chinese epics and reminiscent of other films of this kind. The choreography by Yuen Tak is fairly good, although it looked too flashy for my tastes. (as with Woo's "Red Cliff') The shots are cool and well-choreographed, a blend of the usual wire-fu, wild slow-mo and blood and some gore. Highlights include Zhilong rescuing Liu's son, (which was fairly exciting) and the fight between Cao Ling and Zhilong were very cool to watch. The fights provide great eye candy, but that's all they were; pure eye candy. The film does have a lot of action, it feels more like an action drama and abandons the contemplative nature of the horrors of war.(although it does touch on this idea a little in the final act) Writer/director Daniel Lee does an average job in mixing in emotions and action, but it felt that it reduced its visceral effect. The film has some beautiful cinematography and will no doubt attract mainstream audiences.
"Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon" isn't a bad film, and I rather thought that this may be Daniel Lee's best work. It is a lot better than the abysmal "Empress and the Warriors" and I've seen John Woo's "Red Cliff" and believe me, Woo's take on the "Three Kingdoms" period wasn't that much better. The lore and legend of the Three Kingdoms isn't fully fleshed out, and the film does resort to flashy camera tricks and choreographed action sequences. While this may not be exactly be a bad thing, and will no doubt give the non-meticulous viewer a good diversion, purists of its historical significance will be very disappointed since it isn‘t as intricately compelling as I wished it to be. The film never does delve into wartime strategy that much and falls to the usual epic trappings of honor, betrayal and fate. This film has massive commercial appeal but quite respectable in its quality. "Three Kingdoms" is indeed an entertaining experience, but not outstanding and manages to exude coolness throughout--but isn't war supposed to be "un-cool"?
Another one for the overindulgent International audience for beautiful Chinese epics.
Recommended! [3 ½ Stars]
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