May

6

 TRUE LEGEND held a lot of meaning for me, partially because I lived in Hubei Province, and the scenery/settings of the film were familiar to me from my travels in China. The costumes were gorgeous, inventive and worth a whole review in themselves. I liked the omission of ill-treatment of women, which was of course the case in the latter part of the dynastic period ending in the early nineteen teens. The period of this film is 1869. Though it was not historically accurate, I enjoyed the love story and the magnificent though strained familial ties greatly, especially absent the usual dismissive treatment of females during that time–a wise scripting choice for this viewer, at least.

Su Qi-Er retired from his life as a renowned Qing dynasty (1644-1914) general in order to pursue his creation of a family with his lovely, accomplished wife, Ying, and his own martial arts school in wushu. Su's idyllic life is destroyed peremptorily when his angry adopted brother, Yuan Lie, kidnaps his son, Feng, and leaves the soulful Su for dead in a harrowing near-death by cataract waterfalls. Saved from his watery demise by his loving Ying and the reclusive, ethereal doctor Yu (who rapels off precipitous heights regularly to get the herbs growing wild against the steep cliffsides that she heals her patients with), Su resolves to heal fully and perfect his technique so that he may defeat his brother-in-law Yuan Lie and reunite his family. Aided by the mystical "God of Wushu" and the eccentric, long-white-bearded Old Sage who is a staple in such films and myths, Su masters the stupendous art of Drunken Boxing, and embarks on the restorative fights for honor and family path that eventually gave rise to the legend of the "King of Beggars."

I very much appreciated the costume drama for its stately reconstitution of the nineteenth century in gorgeous, exotic backdrops, exorbitantly beautiful scene backdrops, paintings and photography, marvelous sets and nature captures, as well as the remarkable CGI effects that showed off the martial arts to extravagant effect. Like CROUCHING TIGER, some 10 or so years ago, LEGEND's flights of martial art wushu soaring provided magic and fantasy that lifts the spirit and offers a soaring vision for viewers to ponder and marvel at.

The actors too were well within the limits of believable, with a winsome leading lady, Ying, a charming and believable young boy, Feng, and handsome combatants in the brothers-in-laws, father-in-law and worthy court retainers.

It was a pity that David Carradine was seen for such a brief time, but it was understandable, given his regrettable death shortly thereafter; perhaps there was a problem with his total footage, and the segments were not therefore re-shootable.

The single thing I found negative was that the fights were far too lengthy and the choreography after a time became a bit boring, as no fight in the world could last as long as they did throughout the film, particularly in the last scenes, where the protagonist sustains attacks by four brutish Caucasians for an endless amount of body bruising. I know young boys go to this type of film for the fights and the choreographed mastery of hand to hand combat, but even a stalwart defender of these arts gets exhausted at the idea that a human being could continue to fight without a break for so many untrammeled minutes. The film could be just as good with a series of minutes lopped off, and the fighting contained to a more sustainable few minutes each. There is ample eye-candy to charm and tease the eye and mind without these extended combat sequences.


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