Chinese people always said ‘Without parents, you cannot build a family; and without families, you cannot build a country‘, therefore, parents are so important to a family, a country and they should be respected by their children. That’s the main theme of the movie and the reason the Yang’s seven sons went to save their father, who was betrayed during the battle with the Khitans, even they knew they might sacrifice their lives. What’s not to like about an epic tale of a legendary general, deceived by his devious comrade-in-arms, while a barbaric foe who hold a grudge against him ready to cut him in pieces, and his 7 sons, each with different personalities, risk their lives to save his father?
The carelessness of one son can draw the whole family into trouble. And winning many wars does not only mean that you become the hero of a nation, but also mean that you become the most wanted enemy of the other nation. Yang General has been known in Chinese history to have remarkable tactics and bravery in battles. On the other hand, Pan Mei General who did not help Yang General in the battle because of his personal issue with Yang family, remain to have bad name until today. He was in fact demoted by three ranks for contributing the death of General Yang. There are all movie elements you expect to see in recent Chinese movies like love, brotherhood, master and student relations, political intrigues, wisdom, betrayal, revenge, etc. Everything is the way it should be, the good guys remain good ones till they die and bad guys are either punished or learn their lesson. As a person who has been watching martial art movies for many years, I could appreciate the quality of fighting scenes choreography. I can hardly imagine how warriors of the past could fight for hours using their weapons when one gets tired after fencing for just an hour. Of course there are special effects, but most of the stunts are done with minimal “wire use” that has been heavily exploited by Jet Li in his last movies.
The first major clash is the Battle of Sand Beach, a fierce horseback battle with swords, spears, arrows and hand to hand fighting, all to a driving, dramatic underscore. One of the most striking visuals is the discovery of hundreds of bodies the enemy has skewered on spears stuck into the blood soaked battle ground. Many of the ancient technologies of warfare seem precursors of today’s weapons. In one battle, bags filled with inflammable material (not sure what, possibly a form of alcohol) are hurled by advancing horsemen via hand held catapults towards the enemy, and are torn open by a fuselage of arrows – followed by flaming arrows – a primitive sort of Molotov cocktail perhaps.
Cinematically exquisite, Saving General Yang is lush and wide and sweeping and bloody … all those things that culminate in the description ‘epic’. Ronny Yu has gone to ancient Han in 10th century China for two of the film’s most potent elements. One is the historical basis of the battles that the Yangs of the Song Dynasty fought against the Khitans, major events in China’s psyche. This aspect gives the film its patriotic glue, its stirring, old fashioned war cries and its spectacular flag waving fights. The film is a spectacle, made more so by stunning widescreen cinematography and fabulous costumes, jewelry, hair and overall production design. Everything it promises, it delivers.