Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I’m obviously watching way too many of these wacked out Asian fantasy films as this stuff is actually starting to make sense to me.  Tsui Hark’s remake of his own movie, ‘Zu Warriors’ or ‘The Legend of Zu’ or ‘Shu Shan Zheng Zhuan’ was an outlandish, lavish, CGI fantasy flick that was brimming with action, fantasy, special effects and legend.  Most of all, it was entertaining and, as I said before, I had no problem following it.

Somewhere between heaven and earth stand the mountains of Zu and inhabiting these mountains are the Zu immortals.  What they do up there up there other than stand in front of fans and greenscreens I can’t honestly tell you.  Trouble arises when Onyx, the only evil person in Zu, wants to live forever.  I know they are immortals, but their bodies die and they have to jump into another one, kinda like in that movie ‘The Hidden’.  It seems that not only does Onyx want to live forever, he wants to live forever in the same body.  Talk about a lack of gratitude.  To do this, Onyx must destroy Zu and all of the immortals living their, and subsequently earth itself.  Why he wants to do this, considering how messed up his body is, is beyond me but evil is evil I suppose.
Standing in his way are the heroes of Zu.  For some reason, the names of the characters in the American dubbed version and the original Chinese language version are different.  Anyway, we have Blue Moon played the Ben Affleck of Hong Kong, Ekin Cheng, Red Hawk played by Luis Koo, Thunder played by Patrick Tam and Dawn played by Cecilia Chung.  In my review of ‘The Promise’ I mentioned how easy on the eyes Ms. Chung was in THAT confusing Asian fantasy picture.  She is

easier to look at than ever, this young woman.  Damn near flawless.  Regardless, these heroes, under the direction of their leader White Eyebrows, who has white eyebrows by the way (Sammo Hung), and with the aid of a mortal girl Joy (the omni present Ziyi Zhang) they use their mystical weapons to stop the growing, near unstoppable threat of Onyx. 

One thing I must shamefully admit is that my DVD copy had both the original language and the Miramax truncated version on it.  99/100 I always watch original language versions of foreign films, but that night, I was tired and didn’t feel like reading.  Plus this version shaves a full thirty minutes off of Hark’s original.  Had I known that before hand I never would have viewed the truncated American version.  Totally my bad.

That admission to the side, I was pleasantly surprised with how smoothly the story flowed together and how coherent it was despite the editing, but then, I had recently just seen the Japanese CGI fest ‘Casshern’ which was about as confusing as a film can be.  The special effects in this film range from the truly phenomenal to the truly fake and questionable.  But considering this film was close to 100% effect laden, there was bound to be some unevenness.  These are obviously characters that Hark has much admiration for, as they all are all filmed quite beautifully and very heroically.  Watch as Blue Moon hovers above the sky, the wind blowing his hair and his dashiki (uh, robe…) before he flies off with the magic orb to slay some demons.  Behold the unbelievable speed and precision that Princess Dawn uses to slay those claymation demons lifted from ‘Jason and the Argonauts’ with her lethal, but beautiful flower lasso sword.

Yuen Woo Ping handles the martial arts choreography with his usual flair and grace, though these scenes may be a bit dramatic at times.  If you were simply to toss a Zu immortal the remote control, he or she would spin, drop in a split, do a one hand stand, then back flip while catching the remote behind his back.  There’s a lot of wire work, but this is a fantasy and the immortals do fly so it’s completely necessary.

Similar to Ben Affleck’s fate here stateside, I don’t quite understand the backlash towards Ekin Cheng, other than there was a stretch there when it seemed he was in every flick coming out of Hong Kong.  He, and all of the other actors where fine in their roles as basically comic book superheroes. 

‘Zu Warriors’ was one of the better fantasy films that I’ve seen come here from across the Pacific Rim.  Check it out if it comes your way.

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