Dynasty Warriors is a movie that, for better or for worse, has its share of expository dialogue. But then again, exposition might be the only way to introduce international viewers to the lore of a cinematic adaptation of a video game? This is a game, by the way, that takes its basis from the real-life chaos of imperial era-China. Back on topic, Dong Zhuo (Suet Lam) coup into power is something that Chinese captains mourned, crying for his defeat.
Cao Cao (Kai Wang) thinks that crying is a waste of time and tries to flee the capital of Luoyang to build an army to defeat Dong Zhuo. Dong Zhuo’s subordinate Lu Bu (Louis Koo) smells this plot and chases after him but he gets away. This fight scene is an opportunity for the film to show off its special effects. Bolts of lightning leave their swords, showcasing these weapons’ power. Chi-long To’s adaptation reminds us, one way or another, of this movie’s video game origins.
I have less interest in the action sequences than its depiction of history. While Chinese movies are paying lip service to its complex history, Hong Kong productions like these are more direct. It shows that the diversity within China can unite for a better cause and oust a tyrannical powerful. And yes, I am taking this movie adaptation of a video game way too seriously, especially one that has its share of puffery.
That puffery is just one of the elements that make Roy Hin Yeung Chow’s movie subpar. Another thing that lessens this film’s quality is the way it handles its characters. Liu Bei (Tony Yo-ning Yang) is one of the characters who have a bigger role in Chinese history, but here all he does is wait in the wings, looking for an opportunity to prove himself to be in Cao Cao’s army. All of this feels like a simplification of Guangzhong Luo historical writing, which I know, but still.
The actors also have their positive and negative qualities, the latter outdoing the former. Wang and Yang, both in their late 30s, prove that Asian don’t raisin and that they can fight. But it’s as if they decided to the normal one while leaving the archetypal wackiness for the supporting actors. Someone needed to tell them that there’s only one person in the cast who is allowed to be the stoic one.
A last gripe here would be its lack of female representation. Carina Lau appears as a sword master. Other than her, the other female character is Diao Chan (Coulee Nazha), who exists only for viewers to see how evil Dong Zhuo is and that his defeat can’t come any sooner. It would help if her approach to her character was less catatonic. And her catatonia feels too oppositional to an otherwise histrionic movie.