Movie: True Legend (蘇乞兒)
Director: Yuen Woo-ping
Writer: To Chi-Long
Producer: Bill Kong, Zhang Zhenyang
Country: China, Hong Kong
It might just be a tad bit cheesy with the beginning cinematics, or just totally ridiculous with the animations in general. True Legend is a hard film to understand. (Well, for me at least.) I had the idea in my head that the fact that Michelle Yeoh was casted in this film was a good enough reason to merit watching this movie. However, as the film grew longer, I felt that not only was I confused at what to do next, I also had no clue why I was still watching this film.
The plot would be pretty predictable if it just wasn’t so outrageous. The film begins with a corny cinematic of a group of men ascending towards a fortress on the edge of a cliff. As the men slowly slaughter the enemy they have snuck up on, the audience is informed that their prince has been captured and an execution has begun. In the last moment, Su Can, the general of the forces attacking the fortress, saves the day by killing the men that were about to commence with the execution. A battle wages on for a good ten minutes and then the scene cuts to a victory party.
During the celebration of their rescue of the prince, Su is offered a job as a governor. Su politely declines and believes that the prince should offer the position to his step brother, Yuan, for he is the right man for the position. Su plans on retiring from the military and conveys this to his step brother, and he insists that he wants to spend the rest of his time with Yuan’s sister, Ying. Although hesitant at first, Yuan seems to be grateful for Su and Ying.
Five years pass since that day of their victory, and Su and Ying have given birth to a baby boy. They soon discover that Yuan is coming to visit them and Su becomes filled with joy. However, Su’s father becomes nervous because he knows that the intentions of Yuan’s return are not in the interest of Su’s new family, but instead, revenge on Su’s father for killing Yuan’s father.
That is basically the premise of the movie until 2/3rds through the film, when the plot changes at what one would normally merit as the ending of the movie. However, for some odd reason, the film continues onward, only to prolong your pain.
The problem with True Legend is actually not the acting, which in most of these martial arts films tends to be the biggest down point in the film. Instead, it is the martial arts. The fighting isn’t the problem, its just the way the story implements the fights. Each battle seems like an epic ending to a film that would make you satisfied if everything ended here. But, oh no, it doesn’t end there, because that is only the first fight of many more to come. But then, why the hell is everything resolved? Because it isn’t! There is still some hidden plot device deeply buried within the film that you somehow missed that gets thrown at you. Actually not really, I believe that they just wanted more fight scenes within the film, so they implemented all of these useless sequences with no actual benefit to the film.
An example of this is the weird scene with Jay Chou and the sage, where the main protagonist fights with him, but his training is cut short and no lesson is ultimately learned. Or the last 1/3 of the film that has nothing to do with the other 2/3 of the film’s plot. Its just there for… I really don’t know. If you want, you can cut the film when you feel like it ends and most likely would still gain the same knowledge as if you watched the film to its end.
Ultimately, the problem with True Legend is the attempt of using rubbish plot devices to create long drawn out fights that ultimately serve no purpose other than eye candy for those who like to watch 15 minute fight sequences. For me, it’s really hard to last through the entirety of these epic fights without feeling the emotions that the characters are supposed to endure to make these fights have some sort of meaning. With poor story telling, the whole film falls apart and becomes nothing more than a mockery of itself because the seriousness of the situation just doesn’t exist when everything seems like a joke.
I could go on for hours about this film, but I think I’ve conveyed my overall feelings towards the movie. So, if you like the following yesses, then maybe you can get something out of this film: Yes, its a martial arts film. Yes, it has fighting. Yes, it has no plot that hasn’t been used in any other martial arts film to date. Yes, Michelle Yeoh is in it, and no, she doesn’t fight. And finally, yes, people do weird magical shit that is never really explained. YOU HAVE TRUE LEGEND!
Cast: Vincent Zhao, Zhou Xun, Jay Chou, Michelle Yeoh