Flying Swords of Dragon Gate is a 2011 wuxia film directed by Tsui Hark and starring Jet Li, but don’t get too excited, as Jet Li is practically absent during an entire half-hour period. The film is a remake of Dragon Gate Inn (1966) and fails to capitalise on its key asset (i.e. Jet Li). With that said, Flying Swords of Dragon Gate is definitely one of the best movie from China in terms of 3D special effects. This is actually the first China 3D movie with IMAX 3D recognition.
The bad guys are the eunuchs of the Imperial Court, who have created their own unaccountable secret police, armed with bizarre weapons and utterly ruthless in their quest for power and wealth. The good guys are led by a former general, stripped of his rank by the eunuchs, who set out to shield the innocent, right some wrongs and restore decency to the Imperial Court. And the ugly guys are a gang of cut-throat bandits who have caught scent of a hoard of hidden treasure. Their conflicts come to a head at Dragon Inn, a remote outpost in the desert at the very frontier of the kingdom. But nearby stands Dragon Gate, portal to a lost world under the sands and a vast sandstorm is bearing down on the region. The final battle to the death is fought out amid the traps and feints of a great lost city, and in the whirlwind which turns the desert into a maelstrom of choking sand. It is what you call a unique movie experience that brings in the world of Wuxia to the maximum effect.
Though lacking behind likes of “Avatar” in technical CG wizardry, the film more than compensated by an entertaining amalgation of kungfu action with 3D CGI, making room for character building and more engaging storyline. So the million dollar question…was this film a home run in 3-D? I believe so, and I think it actually added to the overall experience providing the audience is engaged. Rest assured, if you are looking for your monthly kick of Chinese action films, this will not disappoint because there is so much action packed into two hours that you will either come out of the theater happily dazed, or with a migraine that should clear within a few hours. The color grading is stupendous and the 3D treatment takes you through the realm of your aesthetic mind and is pure enjoyment to boot.
However, if there is one big flaw in the film, it is the lack of chemistry between Li and Zhou. Jet Li has been churning out a lot of films lately and I can’t help but to think he is just becoming tired. Or perhaps he just had too much competition on screen with Zhou Xun glowing as the deadly and nimble swordswoman, and Taiwanese actress Kwai Lun Mei stealing the show as the tribal leader of the treasure hunters. Either way, Tsui Hark continues to impress and this film is a deserving picture of how hard work, meticulous planning, perseverance and a clear vision can pay off. Shooting a Martial Arts feature flick on 3D is a colossal task. Gimmicks aside, I recognize this talent and I walked away entertained. Jet Li is hellbent on making 2012 his year, and with this film out the gate, there doesn’t seem to be any limp in his stride.