Saturday, September 1, 2012


Zhou Huai'an (Jet Li) continues a campaign of guerilla warfare against a pair of power-hungry bureaus launched by the Emperor's eunuchs. The pursuit by West Bureau of a pregnant concubine lands Zhou in the path of a warrior also bearing his name, and soon the paths of these three will intersect with those of a vast array of agents, knights, and thieves just beyond the legendary Dragon Gate. And none of them may survive the onslaught of a deep, black, and legendary storm headed their way.

I'm sure there was some financial reason why this, Tsui Hark's foray into 3D IMAX filmmaking, was gracing American screens, but I prefer to think of it as a happy piece of chaos. Hark's joy at having this technology at his fingertips is palpable in every frame, as the camera swoops through ropes and holes, daggers and chains fly at the audience, and warriors fly like ghosts across the screen's surface. Somewhere between a reimagining and a continuation of Tsui's prior work on the Dragon Gate story, it helps to at least know that it's half the story; crucial historical details are hastily explained, and the characters' rich backstories emerge without explication. It may be easy to dismiss this, the first IMAX wuxia film ever, as simply innovation for its own sake. But no matter how convoluted the story gets (and it gets very convoluted), the characters quickly become as interesting and moving as the action that surrounds them. In the end, be it because their stories have grabbed us or because the filmmaking technology is as immersive as advertised, we hang on every gesture. Though it may not go beyond one's expectations of a Tsui Hark IMAX film, FLYING SWORDS OF DRAGON GATE sure as hell meets them.

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