28 May 2006 | ChungMo
Dense Wuxia epic - High on kitsch, low on coherence
Missed "Heaven Sword Dragon Sabre 1"? Don't worry there's a 3 minute recap at the beginning of this film. Now after the recap spend a day deciphering it then return to this film and try to connect the dots. Good luck. Another Chu Yuan film based on a popular historical novel this one is really unconcerned with anything but moving the story forward. Zero character development, little attempt to connect the scenes and many, many lame martial art fights as the clans of the "martial world" battle it out again.
This film is one of the few Shaw films where none of the actors had any decent martial art skill. Their acting ability is another issue. The use of fighting doubles is really obvious in this one as the shots go from a medium shot of two actors clumsily going thru the motions to very long shots of doubles doing all sorts of swift fighting and acrobatics. Someone had the not very brilliant idea of endowing the lead character with a time shifting martial art which is represented by stopping the camera, the actor changes his spot and starting the camera again. This is the oldest special effect in the book but even the guy who discovered it in the 1890's, George Melies, realized that this effect was tough to do with crowd scenes. Yet this is done this way time and time again with the only distraction from the crowd of onlookers suddenly changing is a loud "ding" on the soundtrack. There is also little effort to conceal the Astroturf grass used in the sets. You can clearly see the squares and wrinkles. Maybe it was felt that the movie was an extension of a theatrical piece and nobody would even consider a theater set to have real grass.
Lots of interesting ideas and visuals. The old Shaolin masters who sit in the trunk of trees waiting for someone to fight them out is neat. There's an unexplained guy with a green beard. The title weapons are supposed to be made of quartz but are represented by Plexiglas. The art design is very unrealistic, at times the film is like a painting but not a very good one. Chu Yuan did a lot of better films in regards to plot, action and art design. Unless you are familiar with the story, it might be best to skip this.