8 December 2007 | ChungMo
Opulent visual adaptation of novel, confusing story
More from the Yuen Chor/Ku Lung novel to film adaptation series. One of the pitfalls of adapting a novel is that there usually is no way to compress a standard length novel into a 90 minute film without having an incoherent movie or changing the intent of the novel in some way. Dozens of characters can work well in a novel but in a movie if you go beyond say eight main characters, there's a good chance you'll lose your audience unless they are familiar with the novel.
The Peacock King has been overthrown by the Happy King (played by Lo Lieh) and the combined forces of the martial art world are plotting to overthrow the Happy King for his involvement in the murder of 900 heroes. Shen (played by David Chiang) is a super sword fighter, a bounty hunter and a tycoon (that's the movie's words not mine). He, followed by his fiancé, joins up with the heroes of the martial art world to track down the Happy King. Along the way is treachery from a rival clan that wants to kill the Happy King first, a witch, the Beggar King and more. It all eventually leads to a showdown with the Happy King and his four generals.
First of all, this is a much more opulent production then your usual Shaw movie. The sets are dense and filled with detail. The lighting is careful and the art direction excellent. The sword fights come about every four minutes and are well done by choreographer Tang Chia. The various fighters have interesting techniques, poison ice darts for example. Unfortunately the story leaves a lot to be desired. There is almost no character development, even David Chiang who usually can push his personality through the sketchiest of parts really can do little more then get from scene to scene. I suspect this is from trying to cram the whole book into the movie. The cumulative effect is to leave this viewer uncaring about the whole thing by the end of the film.
If you like dense, character filled wuxia films, this might do it. Otherwise you might want to skip it.