Thursday, 27 November 2014

Legendary Amazons (4 Stars)

This is a Chinese war epic about the Yang clan, the same clan that is featured in "Saving General Yang". It's impossible for me to say how true either film is. I strongly suspect that "Legendary Amazons" is based on a true story, but it's been strongly altered and exaggerated to make the story more exciting.

After the death of Yang Zongbao in battle there is only one man in the Yang clan left alive, Yang Wenguang, an 18-year-old boy. Wenguang is put in charge of an army of 10,000 troops to battle against enemy forces of 100,000. The women in the family, under the leadership of Wenguang's great-grandmother Taijun, correctly surmise that enemies in the government want to use the opportunity to wipe out the Yang clan, so they decide to accompany the army into battle to protect the boy from harm. It soon becomes apparent that Wenguang lacks the experience to lead an army, so his mother takes his place as commander.

The battles are marked by unusual manoeuvres that seem highly unrealistic, but this doesn't make the film any less enjoyable. They are exciting to watch. I've read other reviews that call the manoeuvres comical, but I disagree. Think of them as army versions of the exaggerated kung fu fights that we're used to in Chinese cinema.

The film has stunningly beautiful cinematography. Maybe it's too beautiful. What I mean is that in some scenes the picture is so perfectly serene that it seems unnatural. It's always clear skies and perfect weather. That's not the world that I live in.

A problem that I have with the film, though this may be a result of following a written legend too closely, is that there are too many characters in the film. There are 14 women who go into battle with Wenguang. They're introduced by name in the early scenes, but even if the names were English there would still be too many for me to remember them all. When they ride into battle wearing identical helmets it's impossible to tell them apart. I'd have to watch the film repeatedly to be able to keep track of who's who and who's doing what.

This message at the beginning of the film is the strangest disclaimer I have ever seen. The first paragraph is fairly standard, but the second paragraph is downright weird.
"The motion picture is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Viewers should not act or refrain from acting on the basis of the views and statements expressed in the motion picture".
Wow! What's that supposed to mean? How would any sane person find advice he considers worth following in a film like this?

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