6 January 2005 | lester88
Impressively made local movie
I'm not sure who it was that described this movie as "Crouching Tiger meets Shrek", because that in itself sets an unreasonable benchmark in all sorts of ways. Let's be fair here, both Shrek and Crouching Tiger won Oscars, for crying out loud. Dragonblade is first and foremost an animated children's feature, produced on a shoestring budget - particularly compared to the sackfuls of money thrown at the likes of Shrek. Moreover, the only similarity with Crouching Tiger is in that martial arts are featured in this film, but it's far from being an art house movie, nor does it pretend to be so.
As far as plots go, it's not the most complex out there - but then again, you have to constantly remind yourself throughout that it's a kids' film. Boy meets girl, girl has idiot brother, idiot brother lives up to expectations, mysterious monster terrorizes village, boy sets off on quest to find weapon to defeat monster, all is well in the end. Characters are introduced throughout the story, mostly diversionary, some irritating - of these, three spring to mind - the obligatory cartoon sidekick animal creature, the funky Guardian spirit and the grammatically-challenged teacher type (oh why does wisdom equate with a Yoda-like sentence construction?).
What is scintillating about this film is the martial arts. Directed by a martial artist himself, the film attempts to do justice to the intricacies of wushu. Several fighting styles are apparent in the film, carefully rendered and presented in a way that wushu purists will feel vindicated, yet non-experts will be entertained. The various set-pieces between characters are unique, exciting, laudable. In that respect, definitely enough to keep accompanying parents entertained for the duration of the film - along with various script nods to other films. From the not-so-subtle Taxi Driver innuendos to the blatant Babe reference. With a little Klingon thrown in.
I would have like to see much, much more action in the film. The pacing of the plot is slightly uneven (let's get to the throwdown, people!), with too much time spent on story exposition and not enough on the central premise of the film - it's a cartoon action movie for kids, right? Again, the budget must be kept in mind when appreciating the animation involved. Then again, it's not meant to be realistic - it's a cartoon, folks.
Just as Mulan worked in English and not so much when dubbed into Chinese, I believe this film to be the opposite, appealing in far greater amounts in its original Cantonese version. Voiced by actors recognizeable to the Chinese-speaking market, the idioms and language used, along with the singular heritage of the movie leading to its setting, makes it immediately less corny than its English counterpart.
In summary, it's a good little kids' movie, with enough in it for accompanying parents to appreciate. Moreover, as a film 100% produced in Hong Kong, it's definitely something that Hong Kong can be proud of.