A history lesson about the life of Confucius starring the great Chow Yun Fat made its way finally into my hands, and I must admit, I expected to be bored to tears by this film but it ended up being above average. I’m sure he wasn’t the most eventful man on the planet so I am sure that the research department searched many historical records for the slightest trace of drama in Confucius’ life. The movie started with Confucius visiting the ruler of the Kingdom of Lu where he is the mayor of one of the cities. However he also annoys the various rulers of the surrounding kingdoms by winning back lost territory without any violence. Eventually, his benefactor sends him into exile and is forced to wander for many years before he is allowed to return home where he assembles his book of wisdom.
The action plots in the movie are few and far in between. The film serves as an introduction to Confucius for Westerners who may know little or nothing about him, while reminding Chinese and other Asian audiences about traditional values. The second attempt at shaping Confucius into a box office success was to add in ruthless and magnificent battle scenes.
The film does get dull and dry real quick. It doesn’t help that the film is filled with subtitles to explain the where, the when and the who of events. Chow Yun Fat is always a capable actor and a joy to watch but he looked semi-bored throughout the whole film. Which in turn, makes me scratch my ehad why they bumped Avatar out of theaters for this film overseas. I guess a homeland film has more push than a domestic money maker. Just another example of how heavy-handed CCP control can create precisely the opposite of its desired effect. To tell the truth, I never felt there was much need to make movies on historical topics.
The final part tells how exiled from his homeland by the warlord he well served, Confucius embarks upon the part of his life with which most people identify him, a teacher followed by a group of loyal students. All in all, though, considering how pointless many mainstream films are, I think Confucius does a good job in balancing substance and entertainment. Action fiends should look elsewhere but fans of history and drama should feel right at home. If you’re expecting a lot of Zhou Xun, you’ll be disappointed. Alas, it is great to see Chow Yun Fat back to taking roles that suite him more. He brought to life a man whose only condition is not to be involved in politics any longer but to educate the people only.