Thunder! Lightning! Awesome! Not! ~ That Movie Blogger Fella

Monday, December 14, 2009

Thunder! Lightning! Awesome! Not!

The Storm Warriors
My rating:

I had a friend back in high school who was into Chinese comics. I couldn't read them - I don't even know if they were the ones this film is based on - and I only ever flipped through a few of them, but I didn't like them at all. There was hardly any actual story, just a bunch of ridiculously over-the-top fights in which guys get thrown into mountains that subsequently explode - and a single fight scene could stretch across five issues. Granted, they were weekly issues, but it all struck me as boring and repetitive and utter fail at being awesome.

So if they were the ones The Storm Warriors is based on, I guess the film's a pretty faithful adaptation then.

Lord Godless' (Simon Yam) armies are ravaging China, having already captured the Emperor and his family. He is opposed by Nameless (Kenny Ho), Wind (Ekin Cheng) and Cloud (Aaron Kwok), but the tyrant - and his son, Heart (Nicholas Tse) - are too powerful. Aided by Piggy King (Lam Suet) and Wind and Cloud's respective lovers Second Dream (Charlene Choi) and Chu Chu (Tang Yan), they seek to improve their skills - Wind under the tutelage of Lord Wicked (Kenny Wong), and Cloud under Nameless. But even as Lord Godless seeks an artifact that will complete his conquest, Wind's training leads him down a path of evil that will grant him power, but at great cost to his soul.

I remember little of this film's predecessor The Storm Riders; only that I rather enjoyed it, despite some cheesy CGI and borderline incoherent plot. I have two pieces of good news: first, The Storm Warriors is a pretty much stand-alone film, requiring little to no knowledge of the first installment. Second, the plot is easier to follow. There are still a lot of superfluous characters and unexplained concepts, but nothing that'll make your head itch too much. Unfortunately, that's about all the good news there is. The movie sucks. It's dull and silly and overly portentous until can die.

Take the opening scene. Godless has captured Nameless and Cloud (and a bunch of keh leh feh), who then escape their chains and kick off the first fight scene. Which consists of its combatants taking a good sixty seconds (each) to power up their attacks while their opponents wait politely. This will be repeated in every fight scene in the movie; it's laughable the first time and boring as hell every other. And it's not like their various superpowered special-effecky kungfu techniques make any goddamn sense either. What is Godless' power? What's that weird thing Cloud does with razor wire? Are Wind and Cloud's swords magical? Why can't Nameless' sword-storm thing beat Godless, but Wind's insta-freeze power can? The film isn't interested in answering any of these questions. It's completely arbitrary.

And it's nowhere near as cool or thrilling as it thinks it is either. A lot of scenes go for a stylized comicbook look a la 300 - and indeed, directors Danny and Oxide Pang have cited that film as an influence - and it all just looks and feels fake. Not to mention unintentionally hilarious - there's an utterly LOLworthy freeze-frame of Charlene Choi's O-face. Not to mention dull - the fight scenes take forever, and feature more posturing and posing and CGI than actual fighting. Production values are hit and miss; the costumes look decent, but the sets are all clearly cheap-looking soundstages and bluescreens, even the "outdoor" scenes. Does a deliberately comicbook-stylized film always have to end up on the "cheesy" end of the awesomeness curve?

I dunno. Frankly, I didn't much like 300 either. I like to think a film like this could still work, so long as it has a solid emotional core and convincing performances. This one has neither. Do Wind and Cloud even like each other? What is their relationship anyway? Why does Cloud act like a dick around his nominal girlfriend Chu Chu? And why do the women keep calling them "Fung tai kor!" and "Wan tai kor!!" like a couple of nine-year-olds? Yes, that last bit annoyed me a lot. Both the female characters are so weak and simpering, the whole film comes across as sexist. In fact, are there any strong female characters in Ma Wing-Shing's entire body of work? Do I hear crickets?

And the performances are uniformly poor; everyone acts like they just showed up to cash a paycheck. Nicholas Tse can't even do a properly hissable villain, Simon Yam can't even chew some decent scenery, Lam Suet can't even provide much comic relief. The two actresses are, as mentioned, bloody irritating. Aaron Kwok does nothing but brood and grimace and grit his teeth through his oh-so-fashionably-windswept hair. I'm only slightly impressed by Ekin Cheng, whom normally I can barely stand. He unleashes the histrionics quite well in the closing scene, and does a decent maniacal grin during his turn to the Dark Side™ - the rest of the time he does his usual impression of a wooden plank. Oh, and I quite liked Kenny Ho, who at least looked like he belongs in this world. But honestly, none of the actors had anything to work with.

I have one final piece of bad news: the movie ends on a cliffhanger. Pretty ballsy of the Bros. Pang, assuming their film would be successful enough to engender a sequel - but I'm just gonna say I hope there won't be one. The one good thing about it is the music, which is quite effectively epic and valiantly tries to provide the awesomeness that the rest of the movie lacks. So pick up a soundtrack CD and give the movie a miss. Or go back to the original comics, if they're any better than the movie - and at this point, I'm leaning towards the source material being as sucky as their adaptations. Remember A Man Called Hero? This one's just about as bad.

NEXT REVIEW: The Princess and the Frog
Expectations: fingers crossed


profwacko said...

I was reading ur old reviews and i couldn't stop reading it and continued to the next one until this review. Lol. Anyway, this is long ago but I'll just say from my point of view about this one.

I'm a fan of Ma Wing Shing's comic. I dint know the title in Hong Kong but here its Pedang Setiawan in malay. So this movie is based on the comics. It does have the feel of the comics but the storyline and plot on this movies were changed, compacted and I also confuse watching it. Pening2..

Anyway, I agree with you, this movie is boring, dull, and its only high point is the CGI effects of their powers. Lol. I think the 1st movie is better with more outdoor scene than this one. I hate this movie with majority of it shoots indoor where the scenery looks really fake.

Actually, there were women characters in Ma Wing-Shings work where they were powerful and very dependent. Godless actually is very powerful and in the comic book he can suck the opponent near him and land a one hit sure mati punya punch. Furthermore, his other power is he is invincible... kebal dengan senjata. Wind and Clouds sword is indeed magical but this movie didn't concentrate on that much.

For me, this movie is worst than the 1st one and the comic books definitely more entertaining to follow.