VERY IMPORTANT NOTICE

A must read, if you don't already know ...








Written by Funn Lim


"Awful and messy."




SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!





Also Known As
Master Of The Crimson Armor (US) or as the Commonwealth countries will spell it, Master of the Crimson Armour. I was very annoyed Miramax not only delayed the release date of this movie but changed the title as well. In retrospect and after watching the movie, in a way this movie is about the Master of that rose armour worn by General Guang Ming BUT the US may put more emphasis on the armour and the identity of the person behind the golden mask, but Chen Kaige's version emphasise on the promise made between the goddess and Qing Cheng. I believe that's why it is called The Promise. So I do wonder, why change the emphasis?

Directed by
Chen Kaige

Writing credits
Chen Kaige

Cast-Character
Jang Dong-gun .... Kunlun, the slave
Hiroyuki Sanada .... The General, Guangming
Cecilia Cheung ....The concubine, Qing Cheng
Nicholas Tse ....The Duke, Wu Huan
Chen Hong ... Goddess/deity Man Shen
Liu Ye ... Gui Lang (called Snow Worl shouldn't it be Ghost Wolf?)
Yu Xiaowei ... Yeli
Cheng Qian ... Emperor

For more info
monkeypeaches.com

Plot
A warning. Extensive spoilers.
imdb.com gave this as its plot outline:

"Empowered by the love of a slave (Dong-gun), a royal concubine (Cheung) is given the chance to make an extraordinary decision."

Well, not really.

But I am sure Chen Kaige wanted the story to be this way. Anyway, from what I could see on screen, and as Chen Kaige said the story takes place in a far far far away future that looks like the far far away past with really bad fashion designer and even worse interior designers ruling the visuals and costumes of the day, the story starts with a hungry little girl called Qing Cheng who I assume lost her entire family in a very bloody war. The movie narrated the war as between the mighty general Guang Ming and the Duke of Wuhuan but since Nicholas Tse was much too young then, I assume the Duke was his father. Anyway, she was so hungry she stole a bun from the dead soldier but a young spoilt brat (that is a young boy) trapped her and demanded that she become his slave in exchange of the bun. The girl being an opportunist said yes and even praised the young boy's armour hat which the boy let her see. Once she took it, she banged it against his head, took the bun and run. From that day onwards the boy became embittered by false promises and lies and basically grew up into a jerk.

That girl ran to the river but dropped her bun. As she sat down crying, the goddess Man Shen who rules the fates of the mortals with her whims and fancy (she knows their fates but doesn't tell the poor soul when giving them choices, so the poor soul makes a decision but only later finds out that it is a decision that can't be changed). Maybe she was bored, but anyway she gave Qing Cheng a choice; to take the bun and go or to accept her offer of turning her into the beauty of all beauties, having powerful men to fall for her, having the greatest richest and the abundance of food. The girl immediately agreed but then Man Shen qualified her offer by saying Qing Cheng will never taste true love, and even if she did it will only be for a fleeting moment and she will lose that true love. Of course to a young girl did it matter? So Qing Cheng walked away with that promise, I guess hence the title.

20 years later, General Guang Ming was attacking the barbarians and he bought hundreds of beast like crawling slaves to become his shield. He sent hundreds of them to their death as the barbarians used the rampaging bulls as cover, many died in the stampede. One slave called Kunlun saved his master who was shot by an arrow by the general's clan (as he didn't allow any of them to climb up to safety) and ran like the wind, distracting the bulls and turning their paths towards the barbarians, thus helping the general to win the battle. As his master was dead, Guang Ming offered Kunlun the chance to become his slave and never to crawl again but to run for him and Kunlun agreed without any hesitation as he would have meat to eat. His mind was as simple as the food that will go down to his stomach. Like Qing Cheng I guess, when she was little without thinking of the consequences.

When Guang Ming and Kunlun were on their way back to the palace, Guang Ming got lost and Kunlun was sent to find the path out of the forest. There Quang Ming met Man Shen who told him his fate; that the master of the crimson armour (that armour he was wearing, a symbol of his power and authority) was destined to kill the emperor to save the concubine, the beauty Qing Cheng and Guang Ming will live to see the fall of his own power and the day he cries is the day he shall die. Guang Ming didn't believe that nonsense. And then he was attacked by Gui Lang, an assassin for Wuhuan, Guang Ming's greatest rival. Gui Lang too can run like the wind. Kunlun came in time to save Guang Ming and Gui Lang refused to kill Kunlun as both of them came from the Land of Snow. So Gui Lang went home to Wuhuan to report his failure to assassinate Guang Ming. As a precaution, Guang Ming asked Kunlun to wear the armor, hidden behind the golden mask, never to speak a word and to enter the palace. But Kunlun didn't know who was the emperor and Guang Ming simply said "The man without a weapon in his hands is the emperor".

Next day at the palace, Wuhuan, a very young arrogant duke sent his army into the palace, and I guess to get Qing Cheng. The emperor was waiting for Guang Ming to save the day but he was late. Instead Qing Cheng appeared on the rooftop and by her beauty alone she could command Wuhuan's men to lay down their swords and with a promise to strip in front of them (and the emperor encouraged her to do so), out of anger she ordered the men to point their weapons towards the emperor. The Emperor was very angry and ran after her with his sword. Kunlun arrived and because of a mistaken identity, he flung the sword at the emperor thus killing him whilst he saved Qing Cheng and took her out of the palace. Once they reached the end of the road, Wuhuan ordered for Qing Cheng to be handed over and even praised Guang Ming for killing the emperor, something even Wuhuan didn't dare to do. Of course he didn't know that was not Guang Ming. Qing Cheng wanted to jump into the waterfall as she was sick of her fate but Kunlun advised her to stay alive, to live is most important and he offered to jump for the safety of Qing Cheng. He jumped and Qing Cheng fell in love with that mysterious stranger who selflessly sacrificed his life for her. Wuhuan meanwhile locked Qing Cheng in a big golden cage and even made her wear the white feather cloak.

Guang Ming was arrested as many thought he was the culprit in killing the emperor although he denied it. Man Shen appears and laughed at his predicament and Guang Ming swore he will regain his position. But Man Shen said the master of that armour was about to change and Qing Cheng was destined to fall for that master. Guang Ming was released by her and then Kunlun appeared. He knew Kunlun is destined to be the new master. But he decided to fight his fate and ordered Kunlun to save Qing Cheng and make her fall for him. Kunlun went to save Qing Cheng but she did not trust this man and when the masked master of the crimson armour appeared, she ran to him and together they rode towards safety. Kunlun was heart broken as he too was seduced by her beauty.

Once free, Qing Cheng could hardly believe that man was the same man who saved her at the waterfall but she decided to follow her heart and they spent some quality time together. But she left later as she did not want to fall for him and then to lose him. Before she left she told Kunlun to seek his own destiny and be his own master. Guang Ming told Kunlun to leave as Kunlun defied his order by not killing Qing Cheng.

So he left to find his home at the Land of Snow but he almost froze to death when Gui Lang saved him and let him see his past, his mother and his sister before their race was wiped out by Wuhuan. Gui Lang taught him how to turn back time by running, a skill that people from the Land Of Snow was said to possess. There he learned to use his running skills to turn back time. When he saw Guang Ming again Guang Ming was in the verge of tears as he missed Qing Cheng very much. Kunlun offered to use his skills to turn back time for the general and the general was able to stop Qing Cheng from leaving and she decided to fall deeply in love with him, thinking he was the man who saved her. Kunlun decided to go back in time to see his family again only to see how they died cruelly in the hands of Wuhuan and how Gui Lang betrayed his own honour by becoming Wuhuan's slave. Wuhuan even burned Gui Lang alive and forced him into lifetime of servitude and control by making Gui Lang wear that special cloak that will keep him alive but once it is removed he will turn to dust. Kunlun vented his anger at Gui Lang but had to understand Gui Lang only wanted to live. Kunlun even wanted to change the course of the past but a wall of time prevented him from doing so as what had happened had already happened.

Disaster struck as Guang Ming wanted very much to return to the palace as his men begged him to return. When he did, he was arrested by Wuhuan and was to be executed soon. Kunlun managed to see him and asked him to rise again but Guang Ming lost all hope. In anger, Kunlun decided to steal the armour, wear it and confess to Qing Cheng he was the one she was looking for. But Wuhuan set a trap and Gui Lang came to save the day. Wuhuan agreed to let Kunlun go only if Gui Lang returned his cloak and knowing he would die, Gui Lang decided to regain his honour and die with dignity so that Kunlun could escape with the armour.

Qing Cheng was once again arrested and locked in her golden cage. Kunlun managed to get in and she begged him to save Guang Ming. Kunlun said all she had to do was to lie; that Kunlun was the man who saved her. Qing Cheng agreed without knowing that was the truth.

Once at the trial, Qing Cheng did as she was told but instead Wuhuan turned the tables around when Qing Cheng realised it was indeed Kunlun who saved her. She was very angry with Guang Ming whilst Guang Ming grew despondent as he lost to Wuhuan and was ready to die. Wuhuan refused to let them die so simply and tied them all up and explained why he was the way he was. Qing Cheng realised it was her undoing that caused the 3 men to be at that juncture of their fate and grew to regret it. At that point Guang Ming shed his tears and agreed to wear the cloak once worn by Gui Lang and become Wuhuan's slave. Wuhuan decided to trust once again and let Guang Ming go but Guang Ming tried to stab Wuhuan who immediately stabbed Guang Ming back. As Guang Ming laid dying with a helpless Qing Cheng looking on as she too was tied up, Kunlun managed to escape and I think he stabbed Wuhuan who stabbed him back. Before Wuhuan died, he released Qing Cheng because he wanted her to live to see the deaths of the men she loved. Qing Cheng ran to Kunlun who was dying but Kunlun asked her to go to Guang Ming which she did. All Guang Ming wished for was for her to live on and he died. When Qing Cheng laid mourning for his death, she looked up and saw Kunlun having worn that cloak Gui Lang worn and Kunlun, now regained his strength decided to take Qing Cheng back in time so that she could make her choice once again. The last scene of the couple was they flying in the sky that was turning back in time. The final scene of the movie was the same tree where Qing Cheng would eventually meet the goddess Man Shen when she was little where she made the choice that changed the destinies of all 3 men and herself forever.

The end.

Comments
I was never impressed with the trailers nor the posters or even the visuals of this movie before it was released. I must confess; my mind was on only Jang Dong Gun having become obssessed with everything he does after watching All About Eve middle of last year. I was also interested in listening at how good he was with the Mandarin language and I wasn't disappointed.

I must say, I am very impressed with his command of the Chinese language. The diction was spot on although the Japanese actor has the distinction of speaking with a Beijing accent whilst Jang Dong Gun was more like Taiwanese accent of the Qiong Yau kind. Anyway, very impressed.

In fact so impressed with their ability to speak such good Mandarin that that itself totally eclipsed the entire movie quite simply because there is nothing much to look forward to other than that.

You must understand, I am torn with my feelings for this movie. I have never hesitated to criticise a work of a favourite actor or actress of mine but this one I am torn. I wanted so much to love it, more so as it is nominated for Golden Globes Award. Now I am convinced Kung Fu Hustle actually has a decent chance of winning. I really wanted so much to give a glowing review eventhough I never liked Chen Kaige's movies simply because my gorgeous prince is in this movie looking messy 99% of the time. But in all honesty, I can't.

I began to realise a Chinese movie praised by westerners and by its own country to no end is I am afraid not my cup of tea, except for Kung Fu Hustle. Reminds me of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon syndrome and I hated that movie in my own way.

The Promise reminds me of the awful Troy, where most gave decent performances but the story itself was horribly wrong. Like Troy, the lines uttered by the characters in this movie is I can only say unpoetic and simplistic but that's ok since emphasis is I am sure on the characters and the story, both of which seriously lacking. In an attempt to write a coherent review without sounding offensive, I would like to warn first my review is going to be very offensive to some.

Chen Kaige I realised is not Zhang Yimou nor is he Ang Lee. His way of storytelling is as it is. Whilst he tried to fill the images of this movie with symbols and deeper meanings, all he ended up with is rather just what you see is what you get and more importantly, a messy interpretation. His visuals of colours were blinding to the eyes. The red is too red, the black is too black, the colours too exposed to the point it was blinding to the eye and very very loud. He is not seeking any symbolism of any scene with colours, just that the colours are meant to be colourful and striking without much emphasis except for the rose red which was awful.

The costumes were awful as well. His version is the future but it looked more like the past stuck in an attempt to emulate a future, if you know what I mean. My friend who was watching this movie with me thought the costumes looked too Japanese and indeed, the costume designer I believe was a Japanese and hence the influence. But that is not the point really. The point is the costumes, like the colour is loud and overdone. To look different and artistic, the costumes, especially the crimson armour itself, the head gear and Wuhuan's costumes all looked clumsy, heavy and very loud. It was like haute coulture show and it was scary. When the costumes settled down for something more simple, somehow it was all too simplistic. There is seriously a lack of costume for the men and especially for the character of Qing Cheng in this movie, but I guess costumes is not Chen Kaige's main focus. After all this is not a fashion show.

And so we move to the sets. Unlike Hero where the set works for a given scene and even lend personality to any given scene, the sets in The Promise is exactly like its costumes and colours; loud and in the end pretty awful. The only nice set is actually the house of General Guang Ming but this is not a movie about infrastructure.

In the interviews with Chen Kaige, I gather he wanted to make a movie to symbolise love, freedom, choices and sacrifices. So the movie sets were meant to facilitate that but didn't. Let me explain.

To show Qing Cheng as a beautiful bird trapped in a cage and unable to escape her fate, we have literally a huge golden bird cage and she wearing feathers. To show Qing Cheng enjoying the freedom of having escaped her caged prison, for a moment she soared to the sky and almost felt free and happy, we have literally Qing Cheng flying in the sky like a bird. Both scenes drew chuckles from the audiences, myself included and my only comment I can think of at that time was..well actually two were "Where's the toilet?" for the cage scene and "Well Cecilia Cheung is thin, so she could float" for the flying scene.

That's the essentials of this movie; it shows you literally, you need not imagine. Unlike Hero where the wideness and space of the Emperor's hall denoted a rather depressed feel to it, like emptiness, loneliness at the top of the helm and yet the hall wasn't really decorated in that way, I believe if Chen Kaige were to do that same scene, he would have the emperor's golden chair 100 storeys high. I am sure you get my meaning.

So what I mean is basically Chen Kaige is not Zhang Yimou. Nor is he Ang Lee. Whilst Zhang Yimou and even Ang Lee film certain scenes in a rather symbolic sense, Chen Kaige is a more literal sense type of director.

So visually The Promise was really quite awful and yet funny at the same time.

What then of the characters? To explain the characters we must look at the story itself.

The story is described as somewhat a love story. That is a pretty decent description, but there is a huge problem. The story itself is not convincing, so therefore the love story is not convincing.

The logic or illogical part of this story reminds me so much of AI:Artificial Intelligence. There the movie said that the love of the robot was so real it became real. Not quite since the robot was pre-programmed to love and love it did. That is not real love. Likewise in The Promise. I couldn't reconcile the fact that how can 2 men fall for one woman who looks so thin and pale (yes, Cecilia Cheung was a complete miscast and I shall explain more later)? Worse still, this woman supposed to by her looks alone can command thousands of troops to drop their weapons. In restrospect I understood why although I am not sure this was what Chen Kaige intended.

Qing Cheng made a deal with Man Shen who gave her wealth and beauty. So she may not be THAT beautiful but because of the goddess' powers, she may be cloaked in an ability to bewitch men without realising it herself. That would explain why the General fell for her and Kunlun was willing to do everything for her, despite meeting her just for a few seconds. Of course you can say Kunlun is kind hearted but that is besides the point. To me these men's love aren't real but Qing Cheng's need to love and be loved is real.

And that lies the failure of this movie.

This movie started with Qing Cheng but somewhere along the way she disappeared and when she reappeared it was no big deal. She lost her footing in this movie and gave it to the General and yet the General was not the lead as Kunlun appeared and yet Kunlun was almost insignificant if not for his ability to run like the wind and turn back time and then we have Wuhuan and yet we know he's not the lead. There is not one single emphasis on any given character and yet this movie doesn't really boast of a lot of characters. Somehow the emphasis gone haywire after 10 minutes into the movie and all it ended up with are half cooked characters that I can neither emphatise with nor care to know more. Not even Kunlun and you can quote me on that.

But the way the story went, the catalyst of these 3 men's life was Qing Cheng and therefore emphasis should be on her. After all at the end of the movie, she kinda caused 2 to die and one to almost die. It was her undoing, related back to the choice she made with Man Shen as a child. Hence the title of the movie.

So what about this promise she made? Was it such a big deal? That comes back to Man Shen herself.

She's like a sore point in this movie, appearing out of nowhere and then disappearing into neverland never to return again. Her character is like appearing to set things in motion and then disappear altogether, gone and very forgotten in the plot of this movie. It reminded me so much of Troy. Whilst Troy's story would have been well told with the inclusion of the gods and goddessess, this movie would have been better told if Man Shen either appears in appropriate scenes or not appear at all. Her appearance was annoying and makes the story even more illogical.

For one she gave Qing Cheng an ability to choose her fate but never told her the ending. Quite a devious goddess although the story failed to state why she was so devious; it would be nice to just narrate that thus Man Shen has a penchant for April Fool's jokes. Anyway Qing Cheng's ability to choose meant she has the ability to un-choose so to speak therefore her fate is not set. And yet in later scenes she appeared before the General and said his fate has been set, and that there was nothing he could do to change it since fate is fate. Isn't that contradictory to everything she said earlier? And why then she appeared? What is her connection with the General? It would be nice to show maybe Man Shen as someone who likes messing up people, maybe create another goddess or something that entered into a wager with Man Shen over the lives of these people and so that would explain why Man Shen was such a devious goddess and appearing and disappearing. Like the devil and angel got into a bet or something, that would give sense to Man Shen and everything she said. By lacking that one crucial connection, Man Shen to me served as nothing more than just an occasional annoyance of a ghostly apparrition. Quite simply, not very important except for the first 10 min.

Then the way the General was treated by his fellow soldiers were rather interestingly ridiculous. I can't believe their loyalty would lie in that sissy of an emperor rather than the General who have steered them towards victory and the way his asistant talked to the General after his downfall, there was an obvious hint of contempt which was rather surprising. How could they so easily believed he could kill the Emperor for a woman? And I can't believe it took them such a long time to arrest the general at his house but it is believable he fell for their trickery.

What I didn't quite understand simply was what was Wuhuan in all these? He is translated as The Duke, so is he the relative of the Emperor? Enemy of the emperor? Even he did not dare to kill the emperor. He seems to have this long vendetta against the General. Is he of a different clan? I am not quite sure. But that is besides the point. My problem with this character is how trivial he is. He is young, he hates Qing Cheng for lying to him in that one 10 minute meeting when they were young and so for 2 decades he held this deep hatred for her and he even grew into a psychopath, eliminating the entire race from the Land of the Snow 5 years before, Kunlun's home except for Kunlun who was kidnapped when he was 2 and Gui Lang who feared death above all else and so he became his dog. Wuhuan blamed all his evil traits and despicable manners on Qing Cheng's breaking of her promise. How easy to play the blame game? Watch Wuhuan. Is that logical? Maybe. Some people just blame others for every thing they do though no one forced them too. Wuhuan even cried at his inability to trust anybody because of Qing Cheng. But was it over the top? I would say yes. So to me Wuhuan came on as a spoilt brat who happens to have the power to kill or to not kill and that is scary. I am not sure if Chen Kaige intended for Wuhuan to be a comic relief or not, but when he held up that weapon which has a pointing finger, that was funny.

Gui Lang was another character that could have been quite alright but was overcooked (or was it undercooked?). He feared death, he is a coward but in the end he died to save his friend, Kunlun. Probably his relative, who knows? Many will probably cringe at the way he held on to Kunlun, rubbed his face on Kunlun's shoulders and then dramatically removed the black cloak and then quite simply evaporated into thin air. One was supposed to cry. I was laughing because it was really funny. It was too melodramatic and I think for once someone finally upped the Koreans with an even more melodramatic melodrama. However I didn't quite cringe at the rubbing of the shoulders scene nor did I think it was a bit gay to do so. For me that was pure overacting. I believe Gui Lang who knew Kun Lun's family probably may be a distant cousin. After all he met again his only kin thinking everybody had died and so he had this special affection for Kunlun. If he was gay, it didn't really matter because his death or rather the reason why he died over eclipsed everything.

He died so called to save a friend but also to help his friend retrieve the crimson armour. Why the armour was so important is because Kunlun wanted to wear it to confess to Qing Cheng that he saved her, not the other guy. And that was the reason. Stupid, flimsy and really dumb. Such importance have been placed on the armour and how important it was and yet nowhere in the entire film did any focus really was given to the armour. It was simply a clumsy awful looking armour with flowers on it. Devoid of personality, but then it was just an armour. If the characters did not have any personality, then really why should the armour have that?

Qing Cheng is a character with a flat personality that is non existent. At first she seems rather interesting as she was tired of living under the fate she has chosen and one can't help but kinda emphatise with her upon seeing the emperor; sissy is the way one would describe him. After that her character just fell flat. In fact let me explain further; her character as a child was interesting, an opportunist and a survivor. And when she grew up and appeared on the rooftop, that was when everything went downhill. The reason being the actress and of course the character. If you don't believe in the actress, you can't believe in the character. Her entire purpose in this movie was muted by the men's presence and although the movie began with her and ended with her, in fact the promise itself was related to her and her actions in a way brought about the end of 3 different men, the entire story interestingly didn't really focus on her. She is described as so beautiful and that was about it. To me her character appears shallow, without a direction and very confused as to who she loves. She is in love with the master of the crimson armour (thus the US title) who should be Kunlun at that point but towards the end it's all very muddled since she does feel for the General.

Now we come to Kunlun. Filthy 80% of the time, unshaven for the rest except for 1% where he appeared well, I just wished he appeared that way for the entire movie. Even after he stopped being a slave, he somehow forgot to wash/comb his hair or even shave. A pity. He first appeared beast like and in the tradition of Chen Kaige's vision as explained above, indeed he crawled and even run like a beast. Interestingly he wasn't naked. Anyway...in an attempt to save his dying master, he ran like the wind on all fours until he found his pace and ran upright, the evolution of man completed in 1 minute I guess. He appeared to be a simpleton and indeed he was. He viewed life as precious and one must live on but with dignity. His advice to Qing Cheng was simple enough and she fell for him quite simply then. The rest of the movie he simply appears, disappears, reappears and then stares, screams, cries, steals, kills, flies. In that particular order. It is amazing how someone who I assume never had an education could know how to do kung fu but you could say his kung fu is like the kung fu in this movie itself; him running, someone chasing or everybody twisting and flying around. Not much real kung fu at all. I am just surprised he knows how to speak. Since 2 he was a slave and since he had to walk beast like and never bath, I am surprised he knows how to talk the language. But that is besides the point. Like Chen Kaige, I am beginning to lose sight on what I was trying to say after saying so much nonsense.

There are other characters like the ministers of the imperial palace that were rather funny. Whilst the soldiers shouting in unison to "Kill! Kill! Kill!" in Hero was done to great effect, in here when the ministers screamed "Kill! Kill! Kill!", it was just so funny.

The rest of the characters in this movie are in the end empty, without a personality that is even slightly memorable and shallow in their perception of the things unfolding before their eyes. Maybe shallow is too harsh a word since the story itself is half cooked, so what to expect of the characters?

The visual effects were awful. The bull scene was much too long and looked very dated. King Kong is an example where big money can buy great special effects. I can't expect this movie to do the same of course. And so it looks rather cheap.

The only saving grace of this movie and it is stretching it a bit here to proclam it as such is the performances.

Jang Dong Gun delivers the goods in what is essentially a very quiet and very passive character. He is required to act more with his eyes rather than his voice and he delivers very little lines but his eyes really do speak volumes. He exudes a certain innocence and child like fascination as Kunlun and as the movie progresses his Kunlun became more steadfast, more determined and more confident. From a beast like slave he became quite really a man. Unfortunately the script sucks so his character's development are all mostly out of camera range and those within the camera range in later scenes shows him as rather obsessed in a quiet way for Qing Cheng, much to my confusion. I can't see what's the big deal with Qing Cheng except perhaps she's the first woman he saw, hugged, saved and Qing Cheng had the power to bewitch without knowing it, thanks to Man Shen. He did well in what is essentially a character that failed the actor. I would rather him as the general actually. And may I say although he appears in rags and dirt for most of the time, not even dirt and a very ugly wig with even uglier costume could hide this man's gorgeous face. Which is why I love that few moments where he laid on a snow, seeing his family in his dream with a very clean face and very clean hair. His mandarin is great by the way. Now I hope to hear him speak cantonese!

Hiroyuki Sanada is one Japanese actor I have never seen. He amazed me because his mandarin was excellent, hardly could believe my ears that this man is a Japanese who did not speak the language months before. He looks like a commanding general, he seems cocky and arrogant and he seems believable as the general who wishes to deny his fate. Even at the end when he cried having realised he lost and was at last defeated by Wuhuan, therefore a broken soul, he did well. But somewhere before that, he appears to be overacting most of the time with his over the top smirks and jerks and movements that it is a pity; no one seems to be controlling this man's performance. If he had held back a little, his general might be the character to watch but I am sorry to say, his performance was quite well in some parts but most awful in most. And in some way the way his character developed or rather underdeveloped was due again to the weak script. Towards the end his character was unrealised and had very litle to do except to wallow in self pity. But his mandarin was excellent, for that I kow tow to him.

I can't fault Cecilia Cheung's performance really, that is to say she wasn't awful. She is usually a competent actress, and she was very pretty when she was in King of Comedy and then she lost tons of weight and became stick thin. I remember when she was healthy looking she was in Wu Yen playing the seductive fox and she was very beautiful in there, but lacking grace. As Qing Cheng, time has indeed robbed her of her youthful innocence that was once projected on screen and she is simply painful to watch in this movie. It doesn't help that her make up was either too much or none at all. For a moment I thought maybe the movie has gone overbudget, that was why there was no blusher for Cecilia Cheung who appeared freakishkly pale throughout. So my theory on why men fell for her would be sound since Cecilia Cheung did not have that beauty to carry the character. Not to that extent. And she definitely lacked grace, the way she ran was really very unladylike. I didn't quite care for her Qing Cheng, and she remained aloof and cold at times because she appeared so little and when she appeared she had so little to do. Her character being central in this story became nothing more than an ornament. A very badly scripted and very badly developed character and in the end inadequately portrayed by an actress who was badly cast and so gave a very unconvincing portrayal for a character that I simply can't feel for in any way. Quite simple really. The foundation for disaster was already cast when she was chosen. I believe many would avoid this movie because of her and yet many would still watch because of other reasons. And her voice was dubbed, quite convincingly dubbed in fact. What a sad thing isn't it. A Japanese and a Korean can speak such good mandarin and yet it was a Chinese who was dubbed. During interviews she spoke decent mandarin so I am sure she might have been able to pull it off but instead her voice was dubbed, thus robbing the one authenticity this character may have.

Nicholas Tse has the distinction of wearing the most outrageous costume in here and yet also the nicest ones towards the end. He appears at the best groomed one in here, better than Cecilia Cheung. Very handsome man and usually a better actor than a singer. Maybe his character failed him because Wuhuan is just a scary spoilt brat. The way Nicholas Tse played him was really painful to watch. Over acting, over the top everything. I can't describe his performance except to say it was awful. Not inadequate but really awful. Most of the funniest scenes involved him, and I am sure these scenes aren't intended to be funny at all. Lookout for the scenes where he was holding that finger weapon of his, the way he was hanged on top to trick the General and many more. Even his death scene was funny.

Chen Hong was strange. I like the visuals surrounding her, like floating in water but actually she's floating in thin air, she was ok but her Man Shen was just plain weird. There are times I wonder is she sincere or simply playing a fool on these poor souls? I can't tell for sure.

Liu Ye was ok at first and even that he succumbded to overacting in his death scene.

Everybody else was forgettable quite simply because they're not in focus.

In summary, the only thing I can say is this movie's problem lies with the story. Not the script but the story being the foundation of the script. Concept is quite ok, but the story fumbles and therefore the concept unrealised. Even the ending may be clear to Chen Kaige but to me it was confusing and abrupt. I shall talk more on that at the end of this review.

My point is, only the biggest fan of Jang Dong Gun or any of the star could stomach this movie. It is at the end of the day a movie that you either love or don't love. I refuse to say hate since that word should be reserved for pure junkatainment like A Chinese Tall Story and the likes. I certainly was so very disappointed with this movie. Everything in this movie was plain wrong and the biggest selling point turned out to be foreign actors speaking pitch perfect Mandarin. Chen Kaige's wisest decision was to cast Jang Dong Gun in this movie as this hard working actor went around charming his fans into watching this movie. If you love this movie even when you're not his fan nor fans of any other actors or Cecilia Cheung in here, good for you. Even my deepest love for Jang Dong Gun can't bring me to say that I like this movie. I simply can't lie to myself that way.

Verdict
Awful and messy. If this movie's theme is love, it never really hit the point at all. It is mostly about mistaken idenity and taking charge of one's own destiny, and yet the story never fully or even remotely explored these two themes in a satisfying way. For all the buzz generated for this movie by the charm and presence of one man alone, in this end the movie is just one piece of confusing story with shallow characters with empty personalities and such loud awful costumes, sets and make up. Just give this a miss unless you like the stills you saw, perhaps then the visuals may satisfy you. I recommend Hero by Zhang Yimou instead even if you do not agree with the concept. At least Zhang Yimou is a much better and visionary storyteller whilst Chen Kaige quite simply is not.

Burning Questions
Did Wuhuan loved Qing Cheng?
Nope. Pure hatred, that's all is how I see it. He even blamed her for his inhumane traits, so really his surname should be Mr Lai.

Who did Qing Cheng loved?
Kunlun and the general. Both. But Kunlun above all else.
So what's the ending?
See below.

An Interpretation On The Ending
The ending was as described in the plot. Below is the capture of the 2nd last scene of this movie.
Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

Chen Kaige meant for it to be a happy ending, where she will travel back in time, remake her choice and choose not to accept Man Shen's offer and I guess live happily ever after with Kunlun. The problem is the movie ended with them flying back in the past and the last scene was a tree and the end. It was so abrupt I was shocked. That was it? After all the crap I went through, the lining up to collect the tickets, the pop corn, the money spent on lunches, drinks and ticket and all and THAT WAS IT? How I wished Chen Kaige included a 10 minute scene and just explain how the hell it really ended, not assuming that she makes a different choice which would unite her and Kunlun. Because it wouldn't. Or maybe Kunlun was beside the point?

Now that is my problem with the script because at this point the script itself is so confusing and so confused, I am sure it lost track of what it was trying to say except to say a happy ending.

I can't remember the tree appeared in which scene. She first met Wuhuan first, knocked him and then met Man Shen, accepted the offer and walked away to her fate. To show Kunlun returning with Qing Cheng to the past is all wrong. How can adult Qing Cheng meet young Qing Cheng? I would rather he went back in time alone, met up with young Qing Cheng and advised her not to accept it. But he went with adult Qing Cheng and that in itself was all wrong.

Ok, so let's assume he went back in time. At which point would she be stopped?

Since she met Wuhuan first, did the story imply she should not accept Man Shen's offer but accept Wuhuan's offer to be his slave? Isn't that just as bleak? Or maybe she didn't but she still would have knocked him down and he still would have grown up to be a jerk and eliminate Kunlun's clan. Still the same horrible end.

Ok, let's put that aside and assume she didn't take Man Shen's offer. Then what? Does it imply she will have a happier life as she can then be free to love and be loved? By who? By Kunlun? But she would never have met Kunlun in the new ending since Kunlun would still be a slave. The only reason he stopped being a slave was because he met her in captivity and he rose to the occasion to save her. So even in the end they wouldn't have ended up together. She may not meet the General, so the Emperor would not have died and the General would not have fallen from grace, that I am certain.

So then? Does it mean she travels back in time, remake her choice, remain an opportunist hungry vermin? And Kunlun? He remains a slave in his later life but before that knowing full well he took her back in time to change her destiny and therefore his destiny, the general's destiny will remain unchanged since they would never have met her? Or would he have met her?

And remember that scene where Kunlun tried to stop Wuhuan from burning his people back in time? Remember that watery wall and Gui Lang said Kunlun can't change history since it happened? If that is the case, how can then Kunlun stop young Qing Cheng from meeting Man Shen and make that choice back in the past? Did Mr Chen meant for Kunlun to take adult Qing Cheng back in time to stop young Qing Cheng or to find Man Shen and break that promise? Either way the story is one big mess!

Mr Chen, why not tell us the ending! I mean I know you want it to be a happy ending but tell me how you plan to end it all! I can't see how that can be a happy ending since a young kid with no food, no money and no parents could either be dead, become a slave, become adopted or become a prostitute. Maybe just show she was adopted, and later she met Kunlun the slave or something. Why leave it up to interpretation or rather leave it up to us to assume a happy ending?

Why?

Can you understand the ending? I mean we all know the ending but logically do you really know the ending?

You know the ending I prefer?

Remember my preference to give Man Shen an identity, or maybe some personality other than freaky goddess? Well maybe my alternative ending will give some sense to why she is such a mean goddess in the first place.

That Wuhuan actually stabbed Qing Cheng and to keep her alive, Kunlun let Qing Cheng wear that black cloak. Then Kunlun takes Qing Cheng in present time to look for Man Shen and begs her to change her destiny when she was little since he didn't want her to die and Qing Cheng didn't want to die. Man Shen agrees and as destiny dictates that Qing Cheng should meet and fall for Kunlun who was the only person who possess the skills to turn back time, Man Shen would need Kunlun to run to turn back time to where young Qing Cheng first met either Wuhuan or Man Shen. Man Shen agreed to help Qing Cheng because she wanted to make her an example of human folly and making right decisions, not based on empty stomachs but to look further into the future type of decision since Qing Cheng finally realised her one decision caused 3 men to suffer and probably eliminated an entire clan. Well technically Wuhuan was not in the picture then, so should be 2 men to suffer and she didn't really ask Wuhuan to kill the people from the Land of Snow. Kunlun knew fully that he would cease to exist in that timeline as Kunlun the brave and after he turned back time to stop young Qing Cheng, he happily evaporated into thin air since Kunlun at that point was yet an adult Kunlun. I would prefer Kunlun stopped young Qing Cheng before she met Wuhuan and maybe tried a different approach in dealing with young bratty Wuhuan. Or better yet, she never met Wuhuan at that point. Wuhuan was never knocked down and so he grew up normal. Then maybe Qing Cheng got rescued by the gentle people from the Land of Snow, maybe Gui Lang himself and became his adopted sister since Gui Lang wasn't that old. There Qing Cheng met the young Kun Lun who was never kidnapped. But that wouldn't make sense since he was kidnapped at the age of 2, way before Qing Cheng met Wuhuan. So maybe show Qing Cheng as a young poor girl met Kunlun, a young poor slave and struck up a friendship but was forced to separate. Then Qing Cheng maybe got adopted or something and grew up poor but happy. Kunlun's family was never eliminated and together with maybe Gui Lang went to look for Kunlun and found him and so he grew up happy, educated and more importantly, clean. The general continue to be the general and Gui Lang didn't become Gui Lang. And Qing Cheng met again with Kunlun in future, fell in love but under different circumstances.

You know, something like along that line?

One thing did not reconcile with my story though. It would have been great that it wasn't Wuhuan who burnt the Land of Snow but his father but with young Wuhuan laughing his head off to show how heartless he was and that after that young Kunlun who was still alive was sold to become a slave. And so in new timeline, at least there is a way to stop Kunlun from becoming a slave and separating him from his family and averting the tragedy that befallen the people from the Land of Snow since maybe, just maybe young Wuhuan who after a fateful meeting with Qing Cheng in the new alternative ending would actually become more sensible and advises his father who loves him dearly from doing harm to others. Or that he never met Qing Cheng and therefore never lost his ability to trust in other people. You know give him a decent personality.

But no, Mr Chen had to mess up my brain. Really mess up.

My new alternative ending would take about probably 15 minutes more of the screentime but at least it would make some sense to the story and to give it an ending, although not a great ending but at least an ending that makes a bit of sense.

The Deleted Scenes
The sex scene between the general and Qing Cheng, for sure. The naked scene of Qing Cheng bathing when Kunlun walked in. I knew there was a kissing scene between Kunlun and Qing Cheng and when I didn't see it, I naturally assumed Malaysian censorboard cut it. Apparently the scene was cut from the movie by the director himself. A picture for you to see, how very passionate AND wet (thanks to her tearful face) it was...

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

I am glad it was cut. Not because I can't stand that it wasn't I who was doing the kissing (and I meant to say the receiver is Mr Jang himself) but because it wouldn't make sense. The scene was where she was once again captured and locked in the cage whilst general was waiting for trial tomorrow. Kunlun sneaked in and he agreed to save him by asking her to lie; that Kunlun was the one who wore the armour and killed the emperor, which was the truth. She agreed. She offered her hands to him, he shook it and he left. I assume the cut scene was when he took her hand, he pulled her to him and really kissed him. That wouldn't be right since at that point she didn't know it was Kunlun who saved her and she loved the general so why would she all of a sudden kiss him the way the picture depicted?

So it was a wise decision to cut the scene. Already the movie didn't make sense, imagine if this scene was in it.

Malaysian version also cut out this scene ...
Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

Check This Out
"Revised version gave the film a new beginning and a modified ending and clarifies the role of the princess, played by Cecilia Cheung Pak-si, who had been regarded by some as schizophrenic in her relations with the male characters. "

Only for the US version with the title Master Of The Crimson Armor. Full report here at Just JDG Discussion Forum.

Some Pictures
Posters
I have complained often that this movie's posters are lousy, but surprisingly those used in the European/western/some part of Asian countries, the posters are bearable. Some for your viewing pleasure ..

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us


Captures/studio stills
Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usFree Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usFree Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usFree Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

And many more pictures, captures, news & VODs at Just JDG Discussion Forum.



RATE THIS REVIEW
What do you think of this review? In addition to posting your comments, why not rate this review as well? You will find the 5 stars rating below. Just hover over the number of stars (1 star being minimum and 5 stars being maximum) and click. Thank you for your active participation.

0 comments:

Post a Comment

All replies and discussions will be posted in this review itself, so do remember to bookmark this review and check back from time to time for any replies.Thank you for your active participation.