Let me say from the start of this that this is indeed a good movie, it is far from perfect but it is a good film. "An Empress and the Warriors" is a wonderfully done and shot some what epic war film that really is a romance at heart. That is kinda were the flaws are in this film, it did not pick what it wanted to be. Or better yet I feel that it failed in blending the different styles together perfectly. Still there is enough here that will keep you entertained including the always entertaining Donnie Yen. The story is of war, treachery, love, and honor, all things that could make a great film.
Tha Yan Kingdom is in the midst of a civil war between warlords and seems to be at the center of it all as we begin. At the moment the battle is with the Zhao Kingdom and like any good leader the King's are on the battle field as well. But it is in this opening battle that the king of Yan is injured and gives the leader ship reigns over to Murong Xuehu [Donnie Yen]. This angers Hu Ba [Guo Xiaodong] who is actually a blood relative of the king, he in turn kills the king in order to take over. But things get a little crazy in the Hall of Swords and Hu Ba does not agree with Murong being given the role of new king. Why you might ask even when the king gave him the leadership role, well because he has no royal blood. So in order to deflect all of this Murong gives the role as ruler over to Yan Feier [Kelly Chen], she is now the Empress but first she must be trained to do battle.
It is after her training that Hu Ba sends his warriors after her in the forest and is some what successful since she does not return to the kingdom. This of course puts the ruler title up for grabs if she is not found. During this time she is looked after by a mysterious man in the woods, this man is Duan Lanquan [Leon Lai]. This is where a romance starts to simmer underneath everything else and eventually drives the film. So the film kicks into many types of styles from here as the kingdom starts to crumble from betrayal and lack of a pure leader.
Now after reading all that I can assure you that there is even more going on here and that may be what keeps it from being great. Director Ching Siu Tang really knows how to craft a good action film and the camera department really did do an amazing job here. Before we get into anything else I have to say that there are some beautifully amazing shots in this film. Any way I feel like the script and the direction lacked a little when the romantic portions of the film were introduced. The film would have been much stronger as a straight action/drama, or a straight romantic/drama, if it would have made that choice I feel it would have been better. Still it is more than possible that they could have blended all of it together better, other films have, but they didn't.
Another thing I felt need work was the relation ship between Murong Xuehu and Yan Feier as well as Yan Feier and Duan Lanquan. First there is the brother/sister type relationship between Murong Xuehu and Yan Feier, when watching it I could see it was there but by the end it felt like it could have been so much more. Especially the end involving Murong Xuehu, it could have made that moment more powerful in my opinion. Now Yan Feier and Duan Lanquan is explored more since it is the romance in the film, but again it felt like it was not fully developed.
As for the good I have mentioned of course the action and the cinematography but the acting is good in this as well. Donnie Yen is very good in a dramatic role since he usually does not get these types, but I thought he did a great job, especially his characters curtain call. Leon Lai did a good job as the Empress's romantic interest and his character ended up being something special. Guo Xiaodong was particularly good as the evil Hu Ba and well every one was really good in this, elevating the film up with their performance.
In comes the lovely Kelly Chan as our lead Yan Feier, the newly crowned Empress. Now I will say before anything else about her I felt she did a good job with the role as well, but her character was not fully developed at the screenplay stage. I feel she did what she could with what was written, but the character could have been more. I understand she is a character that was not meant to take over as ruler so she should be getting beat down in training by Donnie Yen's character. I understand that I do but she should have been a little tougher or at least tougher looking by the end of it. Now I understand she needs to be the damsel in distress and be taken care of by Duan, but once again a little more toughness would have added to the believability of the character being an Empress.
Also the wonderful underlying story of treachery, betrayal, and conspiracy could have been explored more. But it never really reaches its full potential and once again could have been so much more. But for all you action guys the action in this film is really good and fun, gotta love those battles. This is a good movie regardless of how it sounds from previous statements and is not horrible at all. But you should go in without high expectations and you may enjoy it a little more. I have to admit I like a little more with each viewing. I do recommend this film to any fan of this kind or if you like me are collecting all of the Dragon Dynasty films even if [like me] you own original releases. The Dragon Dynasty release has a great making of and a wonderful commentary by Bey Logan.
2008 seems to be the year for Chinese epic dramas. "An Empress and the Warriors" was released before the "Romance of Three Kingdoms" related films by Daniel Lee (Three Kingdoms) and John Woo (Red Cliff). The film is helmed by Tony Ching Siu Tang (Naked Weapon) and if you are familiar with this director's past works, you'll know that he is a good action director. However, I do believe the skill of good storytelling eludes him--"An Empress and the Warriors" … more
I was pleasantly surprised that this wasn't just another Chinese action movie, but rather had a more interesting plot. Except for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, most of those fighting movies are eminently forgettable. Sometimes I get sick of mindless gore in such movies. An Empress and the Warriors is different. The movie is more of a love story set in a mythical ancient China. The empress is about to accede to the throne after her father dies, but she is soon diverted by an enemy army. She is … more
I basically am just a normal person obbsessed with Mixed Martial Arts, pro wrestling, movies of all kinds, music of all kinds, books of all kinds, and of course foods of all kinds. Just trying to keep … more
Consider the Source
Use Trust Points to see how much you can rely on this review.
In the tradition of Seven Swords comes the action saga of a kingdom locked in a desperate battle for survival. Martial arts superstar Donnie Yen (Seven Swords) and Hong Kong Film Award winners Kelly Chen (Infernal Affairs) and Leon Lai (Seven Swords) team up as sword-wielding heroes on a quest to unite a divided nation and wage a massive war against an invading horde. Created by the celebrated action choreographer and cinematographer behind Jet Li’sHeroandHouse of Flying Daggers,An Empress & the Warriorstakes epic action to new heights.
Stills from An Empress and the Warriors (Click for larger image)