Movie Review: Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon

Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon is a martial arts film that is lightly based on the 600 year old historical novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms. The action drama stars Andy Lau, Sammo Hung Kam-Bo, and Maggie Q. It was directed by Daniel Lee and was released in April of 2008. The production companies that worked on the film include Taewon Entertainment, the China Film Group, and Visualizer Film Production Ltd.

Three Kingdoms revolves around the life of a Chinese warrior and the events leading up to his most epic battle. The story takes place in China during the early part of the third century. Zhao Zilong, played by Andy Lau, is a commoner living in Shu. Shu is one of the three kingdoms of China, which has been torn apart by civil war. Zhao answers the call of loyalty to his country and becomes a soldier willing to fight for peace between kingdoms.

During his journey through the warfare, Zhao meets Ping-an, who is played by Sammo Hung. Ping-an comes from Shu as well, and together he and Zhao face many battles along the way. Zhao also meets Ying Cao, played by Maggie Q, who is the commander of the opposing armies. Zhao courageously and skillfully charges through the wars, and his heroic efforts gain him continuous rises in rank. He is eventually recruited to control an army that is determined to liberate the land and unify the entire nation.

Zhao achieves notoriety through numerous victories against the enemies, and he is eventually recognized as an invincible general. The battles for the fate of the land continue for decades until a new king takes the throne. The new king proclaims that the only way to attain peace between each kingdom is to defeat and eradicate the powerful warlords who control them. Zhao answers the king's challenge and begins his greatest crusade to unite the divided country.

While Three Kingdoms details an entire lifetime of one man, it does it within approximately 90 minutes. The epic tale almost falls short of where it should be. The plot spans quite a few decades, so many major events get cursory tributes. Background information and the pertinent introductions of characters are cut from the story as well. This creates a rushed feeling in the film. Entire decades play out in just minutes on the screen.

Because there is so much information packed into such a small time frame, much of the storyline is flat. Character development is neglected, so viewers do not easily connect with the heroes or feel contempt for the antagonists. Additionally, significant players in the battles do not get enough screen time. As a result, the epic story becomes a bland narration of history rather than an emotionally charged drama.

While there is occasionally a lack of vigor in some of the film, the final scene brings the electricity that movie fanatics may expect from an action-based drama. The last moments in the film take place in one time period, which makes the final encounters between enemies more meaningful and prominent. Both sides are portrayed in a strong light during the final scene, and the characters' behaviors are more captivating toward the end of the film.

The action sequences in Three Kingdoms are often blurry and difficult to follow. Most of the battles take place in predictable landscapes, and many times they are shot with shadows blocking the faces of the fighters. The adrenaline rush that many action film fans enjoy is virtually nonexistent in this movie. Because there are so many faceless soldiers battling in the field, the fight scenes can become disorienting.

While the battles in this movie may be less than remarkable, the attention to details in costume design is striking. The gorgeous armor and other eye-catching garments give viewers something to remember. The weapons are impressive as well, and they bring the period to life. Daniel Lee also made some notable choices for the musical score in the film. The background music is unusual and strangely compelling.

Andy Lau does a phenomenal job playing the humble young soldier who rises to infamy. Lau brings a sense of depth to his character that makes him seem more human. Although Zhao is considered to be invincible, Lau portrays him as a man who understands that there is no such thing, and even a great general can weaken in the face of destiny. In addition to being a fascinating character, Zhao is also the one constant in a film that spans such a vast time frame. In many instances, Andy Lau holds the film together.

Some of the supporting characters give riveting performances as well. While Yin Cao is portrayed in a fairly limited light, Maggie Q represents the evil villainess perfectly. Sammo Hung narrates the film and executes his character's behavior flawlessly as well. The personal touch these actors give to their roles brings emotion and intensity to the story that would otherwise be missing.

Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon is overall a decent film that is worth watching. While there are some wrinkles that Daniel Lee failed to iron out before releasing the movie, the story is interesting and the main characters are substantial enough to captivate the audience. The theme of the film has long-lasting value, and it revolves around the concept that some things are worth fighting for.

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