Jet Li’s “Hero” Review

I already know what you’re thinking, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”. Let me start by saying “wrong!” While this does explore Asian mythos on a small level, it actually taps into China’s (arguably) biggest historical figure to date. Qin is the man responsible for uniting China into one land, and is also responsible for the creation of the Great Wall (of China). Hero’s focus is actually telling about the method of uniting China. So everyone is wondering, is this a second rate “Crouching Tiger..” or a first rate Hero?

There are many devices in this movie, the plot is magnificent and compels the movie forward. It begins as a nameless warrior (Jet Li) arrives at the emperor’s palace, and the warrior comes bearing fantastic news for he has killed off the King’s assassins and now the king will finally let someone within 100 paces of himself. The emperor has the nameless one recount his story of how he killed the foes and thus the action of the movie unfolds in flashbacks. I really do not want to go too far into the plot as it is truly special in the way it is interwoven with the characters and action. Just know that it’s very intriguing without even letting you know what to consider as truth and what is fiction.

I always enjoy non-english acting, because I don’t notice bad dialogue, the very language of Chinese (Asian language in general) always comes across so authentic and genuine that there’s hardly room for corny lines to be noticed. The drawback is of course that you have to read all the dialogue (which, by the way, gave me a splitting headache when watching “Crouching Tiger..”), but here it is not that difficult since there is a lot of non-verbal skills at work, and it’s used very effectively. The whole cast effectively brings the story along with a sense of purpose and destination.

I particularly enjoy the culture’s values on things such as honor and humility, yet a high amount of pride in family and people (I’m not an anthropologist, but that’s the impression I get). Throughout the film there are distinct impressions of respect for everyone, even their enemies are respected in life and death and this is beautifully communicated throughout.

Zhang Yimou did an amazing job with the use of actual locations mixed with perfect colors. Now colors are not always utilized in a movie’s concept and themes, instead colors are mainly used to set the tone and mood. However, in “Hero” there clearly is some symbolic meaning attached to the way he uses colors, although I wasn’t particularly clear on the all the meanings attached to the color schemes it was apparent that there’s more depth to the film awaiting anyone who cares explain it to me.

The locations chosen for filming are all native to China and are very beautiful indeed. There are many moments captured simply by expressions and camera angles. If there is only one word to express or describe this movie, the word would have to be “beautiful”.

Final Thoughts:
Summarizing this movie is by no means simple, it’s a very complex movie with a lot of heart and homeland pride involved. In Asia, it was actually released two years prior to the U.S. release, but they did not wish to release it here immediately so it would not be written off as a “Crouching Tiger…” wannabe, and this is anything but a wannabe. On the contrary it stands perfectly on its own and will find its way into the category of timeless masterpiece.

4.5 out of 5 stars