By: Anthony Francis
The most frightening words to hear regarding the trailer for any type of film are, “Based on the video game…”.
Historically, video games have not been translated into successful cinema. Most of the lot are simply not good (the “Hitman” films, “Street Fighter”, the “Tomb Raider” films) with a few being completely awful (“Silent Hill, “Alone in the Dark”, and the abomination that was “Super Mario Bros.”).
Early this year, the latest incarnation of “Mortal Combat” proved to be one of the all-too-rare exceptions. It was fast, fun, and creative and was its own entity while keeping fans of the game happy without succumbing to mere fan service. As it stands, “Mortal Combat” is the best action film I have seen this year, and one that gave me fun and inventive fights and a pure throwback thrill ride.
Now comes another action extravaganza based on a video game, “Dynasty Warriors” from director Roy HinYeung Chow.
The wildly popular game (which made its debut in 1997) begat eight sequels and shows no sign of slowing down. It was certainly inevitable that a major film would be born from its success.
While this is not the big budget sweeping historical action epic of John Woo’s masterful “Red Cliff”, Chow’s film is a pretty fun and action-filled piece that entertains.
Both the game and the film are based on Luo Guanzhong’s epic historical novel “Romance of the Three Kingdoms”.
Set during the latter part of the Han Dynasty rule, warriors of the Three Kingdoms, Liu Bei (Tony Yang), Guan Yu (Han Geng), Zhang Fei (Justin Cheung), and a soon to turn bad Cao Cao (Wang Kai), lead a resistance battle to remove Dong Zhuo (Lam Suet) and his war-tested general, Lv Bu (Louis Koo).
This film is not remotely interested in being a history lesson. It is more into mythologizing the times rather than being accurate. But that is fine, as this is born from the video game world. It has serious moments, but this is far from a film that exists to be taken seriously.
When the action comes, it is fairly rewarding and filled with some of the proper gravity-defying feats fans expect from Hong Kong cinema.
The one-on-one fights and the big battles are all creative and mostly fun, save for an over-reliance of CGI.
The battles give the viewer some fun (if not a tad cheesy) entertainment. Swords clash and fists furiously fly, but the most outrageously fun moments are when soldiers crafted from black magic bite on horses legs in mid gallop and an outrageous mass decapitation sequence unfolds in the film’s most bizarre moment.
As with most films set during the time of the dynasties, Chi-long To’s screenplay holds plenty of intrigue, betrayal, corruption, and deception. The script is good enough and truly a bit better than one would expect from a film adaptation of a game.
While not always successful in balancing the goofy and the serious (Do not search for much depth. Just sit back and enjoy the action and the visuals!), “Dynasty Warriors” is a fun film that gives genre fans just enough of a good time.