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Note: This blog expresses only the opinions of the blog owner,
and does not represent the opinion of any organization or blog
that is associated with 聚言莊﹕The House Where Words Gather.

Three Kingdoms: Resurrection Of A Grievance

Though I am a man of science and reason, I do carry Chinese DNA so I can be guilty, on occasion, of being “Chinese superstitious”.  I don’t believe in ghosts and spirits but I still do things like cleaning before Lunar New Year (and, for that matter, the Gregorian New Year) because I can understand the reasoning behind the notion of sweeping out the “bad things” of the passing year and starting the new year with a clean slate.  I know it’s silly and has no bearing whatsoever on the future but the Chinese DNA in my cells started developing 8,000 plus years ago on the banks of the Yellow River so the superstitious urges that the DNA dictates is a mighty hard thing to resist.

Poster for THREE KINGDOMS: RESURRECTION OF THE DRAGONAs this is my first post in the Year of the Ox, I’m loathe to make it a negative one.  My “Chinese superstitious” side is screaming for me to start off the new year on a positive note but the Hong Kong Film Critics Society’s jaw-dropping decision to name THREE KINGDOMS: RESURRECTION OF THE DRAGON as one of its recommended films of 2008 has my head shaking in bewilderment and my mind screaming: “Are you KIDDING me?  Did you guys actually SEE the movie?”.  I was able to overcome the urge to denounce the move when the Society announced their award winners last month.  However, when I read in the paper that they are presenting their awards today at 3 pm with a ceremony at the Hong Kong Film Archive, it stirred up the old grievance so I’m setting my Chinese superstitions aside to rail, once again, about the Hong Kong Films Society Awards.

In recommending THREE KINGDOMS: RESURRECTION OF THE DRAGON, the Society praised director Daniel Lee Yan-Kong for using ROMANCE OF THE THREE KINGDOMS as a backdrop for insights into the notions of destiny and karma.  When I read that, I went to check my DVD of the film to make sure that I didn’t get sold an illegal, pirated copy because the version of the movie that I saw didn’t have much thematic depth.  The movie that I saw looked good and had solid production values but it handled the philosophical aspects of war, life, destiny and karma in a very cursory and superficial way.  To argue that THREE KINGDOMS: RESURRECTION OF THE DRAGON was Poster for PLAYBOY COPSinsightful about destiny and karma is like arguing that PLAYBOY COPS was penetrating social commentary on the nature of the rich and poor in Hong Kong and gave insight on the father-son relationship.  Both were slick productions but neither film offered profound wisdom about anything.

Besides taking issue with the Society’s opinion of the narrative depth of THREE KINGDOMS: RESURRECTION OF THE DRAGON, I think the film has many other problems that would make me hesitate to recommend it as one of the best films of 2008.  The way it changes history is at the top of the list.  It’s fine in a piece of historical fiction to tweak historical details but to change history wholesale by suggesting that Zhao Yun died heroically during a seige rather than, as happened in real life, dying of illness in old age not only annoys historical purists, it kills the film’s credibility with its core audience — ROMANCE OF THE THREE KINGDOMS fans.

Having Sammo Hung’s character narrate the film was also an odd choice.  The Three Kingdoms saga is filled with larger than life personalities like Zhao Yun, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei so why tell the story from the perspective of a low-level soldier like Hung’s Pingan? Not only is he a virtual no-name, he’s presented as a bit of a stumbling, bumbling buffoon.  So why would anyone expect the audience to give two cents about this character much less anything this character has to say?  An odd narrative decision.

Like I said earlier, the film has solid, slick production values, but it’s marred by clumsy storytelling, inconsistent pacing and action sequences edited with the herky-jerky, murky style that filmmakers continue to use despite the fact that 95% of moviegoers are annoyed by it.  Add that all together and THREE KINGDOMS: RESURRECTION OF THE DRAGON is closer to being one of the worst movies of 2008 than one of the best.  As I said earlier, you have to wonder if the Hong Kong Film Critics Society saw a different version of the movie.

FOR THE RECORD: The Hong Kong Film Critics Society gathered on January 4th to determine the winners for their 15th annual awards (click here for the winners list). They spent eight hours and used three rounds of voting to sift through fifty-five eligible films. While the number of films under consideration was up four from 2007, most of the films from 2008 were deemed “poor quality” and only eight to twelve films were seriously considered for awards.

By a wide margin, Ann Hui On-Wah’s THE WAY WE ARE was named Best Film of 2008.  HIGH NOON, SPARROW, THE BEAST STALKER, RUN PAPA RUN, CITY OF BASEBALL, IP MAN, FATAL MOVE and CLAUSTROPHOBIA were also considered but the overwhelming support for THE WAY WE ARE made a final vote moot.

The following is a list of candidates nominated for voting, the finalists and the winners for the remaining categories: Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actress and Best Actor.

  Best Director Best Screenplay Best Actress Best Actor
Nominated For Voting Ann Hui On-Wah (THE WAY WE ARE) 

Heiward Mak Hei-Yan (HIGH NOON) 

Johnnie To Kei-Fung (SPARROW) 

Dante Lam Chiu-Yin (THE BEAST STALKER) 

Wilson Yip Wai-Shun (IP MAN)

Ivy Ho (CLAUSTROPHOBIA) 

Heiward Mak Hei-Yan (HIGH NOON) 

Lui Yau-Wah (THE WAY WE ARE) 

Sylvia Chang Ai-Ka, Mathias Woo Yan-Wai, Susan Chan Suk-Yin (RUN PAPA RUN) 

Derek Kwok Chi-Kin, Lung Man-Hong, Clement Cheng Si-Kit (THE MOSS)

Bau Hei-Jing (THE WAY WE ARE) 

Tien Niu (FATAL MOVE) 

Zhou Xun (PAINTED SKIN) 

Xu Jiao (CJ7) 

Prudence Lau Mei-Kwan (TRUE WOMAN FOR

SALE)
 

Nora Miao (RUN PAPA RUN)

Nick Cheung Ka-Fai (THE BEAST STALKER) 

Anthony Wong Chau-Sang (TRUE WOMAN FOR

SALE)
 

Simon Yam Tat-Wah (SPARROW) 

Gordon Lam Ka-Tung (IP MAN) 

Sammo Hung Kam-Bo (THREE KINGDOMS: RESURRECTION OF THE DRAGON) 

Terry Fan Siu-Wong (THE MOSS)

Final Vote Ann Hui On-Wah (THE WAY WE ARE) 

Heiward Mak Hei-Yan (HIGH NOON)

Ivy Ho (CLAUSTROPHOBIA) 

Heiward Mak Hei-Yan (HIGH NOON)

Bau Hei-Jing (THE WAY WE ARE) 

Tien Niu (FATAL MOVE)

Nick Cheung Ka-Fai (THE BEAST STALKER) 

Anthony Wong Chau-Sang (TRUE WOMAN FOR

SALE)
 

Simon Yam Tat-Wah (SPARROW)

Winner Ann Hui On-Wah (THE WAY WE ARE) Ivy Ho (CLAUSTROPHOBIA) Bau Hei-Jing (THE WAY WE ARE) Nick Cheung Ka-Fai (THE BEAST STALKER)

Image credits: Beijing Poly-bona Film Publishing Company (THREE KINGDOMS: RESURRECTION OF THE DRAGON poster), BIG Pictures (PLAYBOY COPS poster)

4 Responses to “Three Kingdoms: Resurrection Of A Grievance”

  1. Dr. Mike Says:

    It’s good to see The Way We Are winning by a huge margin. It was easily the best HK movie I saw last year.

    I haven’t seen Three Kingdoms and I doubt I ever will after reading what you had to say about it.

  2. glenn Says:

    Great post.

    I’m still scratching my head that Fatal Move got nominated for anything as well.

  3. Alex L. Says:

    I’m cheering for the brother/sister lawyers too.

    I thought heterosexual males would root for the NFL cheerleaders team before the old flight attendants team but ymmv.

  4. Chai Says:

    I COMPLETELY AGREE!!!! You are absolutely right! And I wanted to like it, I really did. It’s got Andy Lau in it. And although I was groovin on Andy in his “mature” mode with the grey hair, it was a complete letdown. I think that telling the story from Pingan’s point of view is a complete waste.

 
 
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