This was the first Wuxia film I have seen. I watched this the day after Mulan. The most famous Wuxia film in the United States is Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Wuxia translates to ‘martial heroes’ and revolves around ancient Chinese lore and is filled with martial arts including swordplay and flying through the air.
Hero focuses on a nameless defense officer, played by Jet Li, summoned to the emperor’s palace for defeating three notorious outlaws, Broken Sword, Flying Snow, and Sky. Three versions of the story of the kills are told to the Emperor and reenacted. The three versions of the story are Red and Yellow, Green, and Blue. These colors have a deeper meaning in Chinese folklore.
The action scenes are meticulously choreographed at speed. In the fight scene with Sky, there is water dripping on the edges of the frame to further demonstrate that no camera trickery is being used to speed up the fight scenes. In the Red and Yellow fight scene, every leaf is perfectly yellow. They were meticulously gathered and spread out over the ground to entirely cover it. There is amazing attention to detail in all the backgrounds, but the action sequences never pause to let you fully enjoy the lengths that the director, Yimou Zhang, went through to make the film. Long flowing fabrics are used multiple times as weapons and as symbolism. They all flow and ripple in natural ways that again, enhance the technical skill of the entire crew.
The dialog is minimal, but the characters are fully developed. There is a lot of internal struggle and soul searching with Broken Sword and Sky. The story of what happened is left to the viewer to decide, but not in such a way that you will feel unfulfilled after the movie finishes. All the actors can carry their scenes beyond just the action sequences.
This is a wonderful introduction to a genre of film. If this is what Mulan was trying to achieve it fell incredibly short. The Trailer for Mulan did echo Wuxia, but the final product didn’t measure up. This film is also not a cheesy kung-fu film. The action sequences are beautifully choreographed sequences that mesmerize you with the attention to detail. I intend to further explore the genre and think this is a great starting point.