$2.50 Reviews: Hero (2002)

$2.50 Reviews:

Hero

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Hero is a 2002 martial arts film directed by Zhang Yimo. It stars Jet Li as "Nameless", and tells the story of how he manages to conquer three assassins who had attempted to end the life of the King of Qin. To give a rough time period, the film is set before the Great Wall of China is constructed. At the time of production, Hero was the most expensive Chinese film to ever be produced, and that large budget was most definitely worth it. What they got out of it was a beautifully told story with a powerful message.

The majority of the film is told with the memories of Nameless and the beliefs and suspicions of the King of Qin. For the longest time, the two of them sit in the King's palace and talk with one another. The first story is told from Nameless' perspective, showing how he defeated each one of the three assassins. At this point, I was pondering how they would manage to stretch this out into a full length picture, and why we should be bothered to care. We know who won, and at this point in the film, Nameless continues to receive rewards for slaying the assassins. There seems to be very little conflict, and no danger to any of the important characters.

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Wonderfully choreographed fight scenes

At this point, the film gets turned on its head with the King figuring out Nameless' true motives. He then proceeds in re-telling part of the story the way he imagined that it actually happened. This swapping happens a couple times, with each time getting closer to the truth and revealing more about each character's past. This ends up being a very effective form of storytelling, managing to keep the audience guessing, yet still very entertained.

As you can expect from a martial arts film, there are many fight scenes throughout. These scenes are highly involving, and for the most part manage to stay fresh. Jet Li is in the vast majority of them, and as per usual, he does an amazing job. The real problem I have with them is although they all do look amazing, the gravity defying nature of them all breaks the immersion factor. You get people jumping through the air for what seems like minutes, bouncing off of and running on water, and even sticking to the roof of a ceiling like a bat. The water fight was especially guilty of this, as none of that fight could be pulled off in real life. And yet, maybe it does make sense, considering that they are all told through memories and suspicions. Maybe they are shown in unbelievable ways because the characters want to give themselves more credit than they deserve. As entirely possible as this is, it still hinders the film's otherwise incredibly beautiful sequences.

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Aesthetically beautiful

What makes the film very enjoyable to watch is how tranquil and serene the entire experience is. This is especially true when there are swords clashing with each other. The fight scenes are shot in such a way that despite the heavy action on screen, your heart never starts racing. It is peaceful even when it shouldn't be. Each fight is done in an artistic manner that is almost mesmerizing to watch. Even when the characters pull off impossible feats, the background visuals and music continue to make you feel at peace with the world.

This is helped even more by the character development. Despite the fact that the story could be summarized in a paragraph, the script and acting performances help you bond with each character, despite them going through slight, but important changes in each iteration of the story. Even though reading the subtitles does make you less able to focus on the acting, the amazing performances shine through. Each of the main characters makes you feel for what they are going through. You never want to see a character die, especially after the first telling of the story is over. Their emotions, conflicts and sorrows are all brought out on screen in such a way that will leave you emotionally drained by film's end.

Hero is a visual masterpiece. It is peaceful and calming while still being able to bring the same type of action that is expected from a martial arts film. The characters have real depth, the acting is well done, and the style it was filmed in truly is beautiful. The way it manages to portray its message is effective, allowing the viewer to look back at the end of the film and reflect on what has happened. Although the plot leaves something to be desired and the fight scenes are a tad bit unrealistic to be made believable, but overall it is still a film with a broad appeal that should definitely be watched.

Hero is one of my favourite martial arts films of recent years, 8 years old now though! Wow I feel old :(

TimeLord:
Hero is one of my favourite martial arts films of recent years, 8 years old now though! Wow I feel old :(

If it makes you feel any better, it was released outside of China later on. America was 2004, and it was likely 2004 most other places as well.

I.. Didn't get first post? *wanders around a forest in a montage to sad music*.

Okay, I'm back now. I am not speaking in hyperbole here when I tell you this is probably the best review you've done. It was awesomely (it's a word) written, nice balance of literary depth and informality, all points raised were fair and backed up by evidence from the film and there was a clear thread of your feelings on the film from the first paragraph to the last.

Genuinely great review, man :)

FargoDog:
I.. Didn't get first post? *wanders around a forest in a montage to sad music*.

Okay, I'm back now. I am not speaking in hyperbole here when I tell you this is probably the best review you've done. It was awesomely (it's a word) written, nice balance of literary depth and informality, all points raised were fair and backed up by evidence from the film and there was a clear thread of your feelings on the film from the first paragraph to the last.

Genuinely great review, man :)

Hehe. No first post for Fargo today. :/

Best review? Thanks for that I guess.

I thought it was my worst...

Marter:

I thought it was my worst...

Well, you're wrong.

This isn't even open for discussion. You're just wrong. :P

FargoDog:
Well, you're wrong.

This isn't even open for discussion. You're just wrong. :P

I shall not try and debate it then. This is not my worst review.

Marter:

FargoDog:
Well, you're wrong.

This isn't even open for discussion. You're just wrong. :P

I shall not try and debate it then. This is not my worst review.

Actually, I'm going back on what I just said, but why do you think it's so bad? I'm genuinely curious..

FargoDog:
Actually, I'm going back on what I just said, but why do you think it's so bad? I'm genuinely curious..

It just didn't...flow, I guess, while I was writing. It just seemed like what I was saying was more disjointed nonsense that didn't really have much purpose or depth.

It was also more difficult to write a lot about it, because in essence I did find it a really simple film.

I'm likely just being too hard on myself, but when it doesn't seem easy to write about, I automatically feel like it's not good. My belief is that my thoughts should be easy to get onto paper. When that doesn't happen, I think it's bad.

Marter:

It just didn't...flow, I guess, while I was writing. It just seemed like what I was saying was more disjointed nonsense that didn't really have much purpose or depth.

It was also more difficult to write a lot about it, because in essence I did find it a really simple film.

I'm likely just being too hard on myself, but when it doesn't seem easy to write about, I automatically feel like it's not good. My belief is that my thoughts should be easy to get onto paper. When that doesn't happen, I think it's bad.

I've always found that struggling is better, it means you subconsciously put more into it just to try and get over the hurdles. That's what happens to me anyway. Might be the same for you?

FargoDog:
I've always found that struggling is better, it means you subconsciously put more into it just to try and get over the hurdles. That's what happens to me anyway. Might be the same for you?

It is possible. I mean, you said it was probably the best one, so that means that you are likely correct.

Marter:
It is possible. I mean, you said it was probably the best one, so that means that you are likely correct.

Amn't I always?

The answer you're looking for is 'No'

Anyway, glad you enjoyed the film :) I'm a big Jet Li fan so I really liked Hero as well.

Good review, but what was the message you took away from it that you mentioned? I have my own ideas but I am curious what others thought.

Sev72:
Good review, but what was the message you took away from it that you mentioned? I have my own ideas but I am curious what others thought.

It was something like "One's suffering is nothing compared to the nation's".

It was said in the film itself, and to me was one of the main things to take away from it.

 

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