The martial arts are a time honored sport which turns ferocious fighting into a thing of grace and beauty. The deadly moves which are depicted in Chinese motion pictures are especially lovely. One such motion picture is the epic The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate, a wuxia film which showcases many interesting fight scenes, cool moves and fun action. The term “wuxia” means “martial hero” and it is a popular form of Chinese fiction. Popular martial artist/actor Jet Li stars in The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate and the results are somewhat mixed.
The film is a remake of 1966’s Dragon Gate Inn and 1992’s New Dragon Gate Inn. The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate is a fresh and exciting film following in the aforementioned wuxia epics. Hong Kong New Wave writer/director/producer Tsui Hark has used the source material pretty well. His camerawork is fierce and so is the fight choreography. The film is littered with interesting fight scenes and over-the-top acting. To make matters more chaotic, English-speaking audiences have to view the film in Chinese with English subtitles, a small price to pay for average quality entertainment.
The plot of The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate is rather unique. It focuses on an inn in the middle of the desert and in this inn, contain random people who seek shelter from sandstorms. There is also a lost city filled with gold nearby and the a handful of the inn’s patrons decide to unearth the golden city. A pregnant palace woman, a skilled swordswoman, a sinister royal guard, and the mysterious Zhao (Li) all face off in the desert for not only gold but honor.
Explaining the plot of The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate isn’t very easy especially with so many characters and conflicts flying around. Basically, if you are going to see this movie, go in expecting lot and lots of martial arts fighting. The plot is kind of convoluted and the characters are cliche and uninteresting. Even Jet Li can’t really save the picture. The only redeeming qualities this film has are its fight choreography and the period costumes.
The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate was shot in 3D and this may leave a bad taste in audiences’ mouths. Swords, chains, rocks, razor sharp wire and various other weapons and objects fly “out” of the screen. It works some of the time but the other times, it’s just so ridiculous, you may want to laugh. 3D is putting a damper on the film industry. Instead of artful stories, studios churn out 2-hour video game-esque nonsense. The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate sadly falls under this category and because of this, it is a mediocre film at best.
With a 1-week limited engagement, The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate hits theaters in IMAX 3D on August 31. With Chinese action films being a hit with moviegoers in the past, it is possible that The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate might be something of a hit. If anything, it will probably find a long life as a cult classic. A film as over-the-top and ridiculous as this will definitely be in any wuxia film fan’s DVD or Blu-ray collection.
The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate is an interesting film. It has crazy fight scenes, cool costumes, exotic settings, and cartoonish characters. There’s even a decent amount of humor to keep things light and fun. Jet Li does his best to anchor the film with his superstar status. He does an adequate job but his performance is buried by his costars hamming it up in front of the camera. Another complaint is that the characters defy the laws of gravity on many occasions and there is a Matrix-like quality to many of the scenes but after a while, this absurdity becomes so commonplace that one has no choice but to sit back and accept it. Having said that, The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate is an overblown Chinese epic that has an almost even balance of both pros and cons.