***Warning...may contain spoilers, but movie is pretty "spoilt" as it is...*****
I really wanted to like and support this movie. Three Kingdoms is one of the most fascinating historic period with lots of compelling tales of political intrigue, plot twists, larger than life characters, fantastical, famous battles, mind-boggling tactics and the novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, fleshed out the historical structure further with fascinating myths, legendary details, etc....it is very difficult to go "wrong" with this material, and yet John Woo has chosen to chuck most of it away and dumb it all down for us.
The battle scenes were visually stimulating enough, and are the best parts of the movie, so savour them! What is interesting is to see the magnificence of the formations and tactics described in the books all meticulously CGIed for us.
Overall, this is a big budget production, and it does show in the lavish sets, costumes, impressive battle mobilization, etc. This is where I awarded the movie 6/10.
Forget the acting, the characters, the cringe-worthy dialogue, playing footsie with history (Liu Bei was actually rather cunning and he wove grass shoe soles while he lived under Cao Cao to hide his intelligence and ambition, he isn't the clueless good guy as portrayed), the insipid and totally pointless, pathetically contrived sex, the incredibly asinine jokes and lame puns ("fan" and "staying cool") stretched to unbelievable limits, the WTF? anecdotes (the stolen ox, the music improvization, and "Meng Meng", the baby horse).
Unbelievable!! The middle is a waste of time - there is so much more to add and to say, yet only extreme cinematic silliness and facile character portraits prevail. The contemporary equivalent of the three rulers are say, Mao, Chiang Kai-shek and Sun Yat Sen and their capable deputies, not to mention the brilliant women like the Soong sisters, can anyone imagine Zhou En- Lai spending his spare time during a period of war against the Japanese or Nationalists teaching children's songs to kids in school or writing calligraphy that insults his opponents???
The original texts are so rich with tactical details, ruthless, complex and brilliant characters and unpredictable plot twists, it would have made a far more interesting film the likes of LOTR. I wish Peter Jackson directed this gem, not John Woo. It's as if someone dumbed down and diluted the LOTR trilogy, into ....Narnia.
If you're looking for a more authentically "Chinese" film about the glory and horrors of war, brotherhood (not just between the 3 characters but the heart-wrenching element of civil warring, Chinese vs. Chinese, etc.), treachery, betrayal, love, honour, watch "Warlords". One of the best films ever...epic, complex, realistic, emotionally engaging and unforgettable. Red Cliff comes across as an epic farce in comparison to Warlords.
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