- RatedPG /GenreAction, Adventure, Fantasy
Rating: 3 out of 5
When you take a comic-book story and put it up on the big screen, especially one originally published in Chinese, something can get lost in translation.
It is probably unfair to poke fun at character names such as Wind, Cloud, Second Dream, Lord Godless, Lord Wicked, The Piggy King and Nameless, among others, which probably sound perfectly fine in Chinese (Cantonese, to be exact), so let’s not.
The Storm Warriors is the long-time-coming sequel to Andrew Lau’s The Storm Riders (1998), with returning Hong Kong stars Aaron Kwok and Ekin Cheng, and a heavy use of special effects, the order of the day.
For the uninitiated, both films have been based on the works of Ma Wing Shing and depict a fantastical wuxia-era China, where the heroes -- principally Wind (Cheng) and Cloud (Kwok) -- attempt to defeat evildoers and overcome attempts to undermine their unity.
They do so using a dazzling array of martial arts styles and displaying a preternatural mastery over Chinese zodiac elements such as fire and water.
To judge this movie against its peers, Storm Warriors succeeds to a point.
This sequel by the Pang Brothers (the Eye movies, and The Messengers for Hollywood), no stranger to modern visual effects themselves, manages to come close to emulating the effects of recent Frank Miller-instigated works, such as 300 and Sin City, even if it does go over the top in employing slow-motion playback and various green-screen tricks.
The themes are simplistic (good versus evil, China against Japan) and the acting is merely perfunctory, but that should not bother fans of Kwok, Cheng, Nicolas Tse, Simon Yam and Charlene Choi, some of the bigger names in the cast -- or fans of the long-running, multi-volumed comic.
Only the overly sentimental will be affected by the dilemmas faced by the characters, who are not developed in any way that would make them believably whole people.
Set long after the events of Storm Riders, with a distinctly separate storyline, the film begins with a conquering Japanese warlord, Godless (Yam), having captured the ruling Chinese royalty and imprisoned several of the noble pugilists.
He and his son (Tse) have their sights set on a relic in the Dragon Tomb, which would make the already powerful Godless virtually invincible.
Defeated and injured by Godless, Wind, Cloud and Nameless flee. Nameless means to train Cloud such that he is able to take on Godless again.
Meanwhile, Wind’s path to greater power requires him to train in an ‘evil’ way -- in Star Wars parlance, he has to go to the Dark Side -- under the tutelage of the aptly named Lord Wicked, such that he may turn into a demon should things go wrong.
Just as there is little tension in the above scenarios, there is little subtlety throughout the movie. Battle scenes are often loud, nerve-jangling and visually spectacular to the point of sensory overload. You either love this or hate this, one suspects.
As such, the quieter moments, when stiff acting from the leads is more apparent, are likely the least enjoyable or interesting parts of the film.
Choi as Second Dream and Tang Yan, taking over the role of Chu Chu from Shu Qi in the previous instalment, provide cursory love interests for Wind and Cloud respectively. But they do little more than appear as pretty damsels ill-equipped to make any meaningful contributions to the key plots and battles.
For what it is, an effects-laden comic book adaptation, Storm Warriors is a fair, mindlessly entertaining effort. It is as nourishing as the buttered popcorn you munch in the cinema, and just as memorable.
About Yong Shu Chiang
Yong Shu Chiang, otherwise known as SC, is a freelance editor and writer. He reviewed movies for Juice magazine when he was in college, and was the resident film reviewer for Today Newspaper from 2003 to 2005. He has also reviewed movies for Prime Time Morning on Channel NewsAsia.
"Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in!"
-- Michael Corleone, The Godfather Part III