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Dragon Blade (2015)
When the Eagle meets the Dragon
Filmmaker(s): Daniel Lee

Huo An, the commander of the Protection Squad of the Western Regions, was framed by evil forces and becomes enslaved. On the other hand, a Roman general escapes to China after rescuing the Prince. The heroic duo meet in the Western Desert and a thrilling story unfolds.

Dragon Blade (2015)

Government Clerks Somewhere

This is the second of the big budget films I have seen recently that are funded by the Beijing government, have an overt propaganda message, revisit a key historic event that shaped the current nation, have a framing with modern young people discovering and appreciating the lesson and have a huge production budget.

It is also the second that lacks any life, rather like the Chinese cities I have visited: lots of motion, noise and people but not much soul.

I literally was able to watch this side by side with the new Mad Max, because the guy next to me on the plane was watching that film. I was reminded that the effects in that (and Iron Man 3, which I also recently saw) had personality in roughly the same way that Hitchock‘s camera can be said to have introduced personality.

Things flow in those films in ways that subtly excite. When we have masses of something, the mass seems heavy, full of urge and power. We don’t just see spectacle, we understand it. Here, we have a few grand vistas, many large elaborate environments and many huge armies, often in battle. There is scant choreography of the marvelous kind that Yimou Zhang gives us. It is instead just massive staging with a conventional camera — the sort of thing that Mel Gibson gave with his Scottish movie. It was forgivable then. Not now.

I think Chinese young people are every bit as sophisticated as young people elsewhere. While they are sadly as susceptible to nationalism as the rest of us, they can see when the message is blunted by government clerks.

"Yes, the West is simply bent on subjugating us, and are stronger, but they are far from home. We have heart, determination and guile. We can make friends with them while they are here, but in a couple thousand years they will be hard to recall and our young people will still be here."

That, told noisily.

But it has Jackie Chan! My heavens, Jackie at what 60? Still doing the better-fighter-than-you performances. The battles themselves are choreographed dully, but he seems to bring his own people and gives us the familiar product.

Posted in 2015

Ted’s Evaluation — 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.


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