Warriors of Heaven and Earth Movie Review
"Warriors of Heaven and Earth" is the latest Chinese import, about a group of disenchanted warriors who have to go up against an evil warlord bent on obtaining the magical cargo they're transporting. While featuring some fun action, the movie never really achieves the epic status it is so clearly striving for.
The movie is basically about a Japanese military captain, Li Zai (Wen Jiang) who is forced to go on the run when he refuses to kill women and children on orders of the emperor. Another man, Lai Qi (Kiichi Nakai), is sent to recover or kill him, but the two find a common enemy in ruthless Master An (Xueqi Wang), a local warlord. The good guys end up in an Alamo-esque fort as they try to withstand Master An's large army.
"Warriors of Heaven and Earth" features some impressive sequences, at least conceptually, including one scene where the good guys are stranded in the desert without water and Master An is only a hundred yards away, splashing water over his face. The climax is also fairly stunning and puts 2004's "The Alamo" to shame. Of course, that's not saying much.
Some people have complained that "Warriors of Heaven and Earth" has a low-budget feel about it, but to me, it is visually impressive from beginning to end. The scenery is excellent and some of the visuals, especially that of the aerial shot of the fort at night with burning oil all around it, are notable. The real problem lies in the direction, which, sadly, is pretty basic. Writer/director Ping He does not do a bad job, but does not do anything to raise "Warriors" above the competition. The screenplay is also pretty weak at times, but the acting is good enough to smooth out some of the sketchy parts.
The two most dreadful aspects of the film are the narration and the magical Buddhist artifact. The narration is weak and only detracts from the film; it points to a lack in confidence by Ping He. Furthermore, halfway through the film the director introduces us to the source of all of the heroes' problems, a strange artifact that emits beams of light. Ultimately, it seems like a rip-off of "Raiders of the Lost Ark," and, more notably, does not fit in the movie at all. Other than this stupid artifact, "Warriors" is fairly believable and the addition of mysticism, especially more than halfway through the movie, is really pathetic. The artifact, of course, also plays into the final scene and completely dropped it down a notch.
"Warriors of Heaven and Earth" comes close to being something great, but in the end has to settle for being no different than dozens of other films. It has its entertaining moments, but it also has its weak moments as well.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.