When I left the theater after seeing Hero, I was angry. Not because I was disappointed in the movie, but because Miramax labeled the film
(in the TV spots) as "Quentin Tarentino Presents."
In reality, Quentin Tarentino had NOTHING to do with the production of this film. And so the unsuspecting filmgoer will no doubt praise
Tarentino for his work here. However, Hero is far above and beyond anything Tarentino has, or probably ever will do. But enough about
Hero was first released in China in 2002. Finally, it has been released in the U.S. and saying it has been worth the wait is an understatement.
Jet Li stars as the Nameless warrior who plans to assassinate the emperor of the Qin. Jet Li has been in some terrible American movies, but
here in his natural language, we get a better feeling for how he became a star.
But the true hero of the film is director Yimou Zhang and his entire crew. Hero is one of the best, if not the best, looking films I have ever
seen. The art direction, cinematography, and production design are INCREDIBLE. Not to mention, the fantastically choreographed action
scenes (and there are a lot of them).
There are some truly jaw dropping visual touches in the film. The first fight takes place in a rain soaked courtyard, and in one shot, goes
into slow motion where we see the individual water droplets splitting before the flying fighters.
There is also a fight inside a storm of red and yellow leaves that is also stunning. While this doesn't sound incredible, it is directed with
such subtlety by Zhang that it feels less like a special effect.
This is true of the entire film. Zhang never goes over the top with his camera work, even though with these kinds of epic shots it is very
easy to go that way.
Equally as effective as the visuals is the excellent sound design (swords clashing has never sounded so good!). Some people might find
that the movie becomes a bit plodding towards the end (especially in regards to the love story), but so much of this film is so incredibly
good that it really doesn't matter. Go see Hero. It is FAR superior to Crouching Tiger, and unlike anything you have ever seen.
* * * *
(Out of four)
Directed by: Yimou Zhang
Written by: Feng Li and Bin Wang and Yimou Zhang
Starring: Jet Li, Ziyi Zhang, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Maggie
Cheung, Daoming Chen
Cinematography by: Christopher Doyle
Music by: Tan Dun
Released: August 27, 2004; 99 Minutes