The Storm Warriors


Reviewed by: Funn Lim

December 15, 2009

Rating: one-point-five

"This present movie is too in awe with the technology aspect that it sacrificed the characters and the story. The story became muddled, confusing and irrelevant".

Originally posted at
http://point2e-reviews.blogspot.com/2009/12/storm-warriors-hkchi.html

Cantonese title
Fung Wan II, meaning Storm Riders 2 but like Wikipedia said, to avoid copyright problems, the directors rename it to Storm Warriors.

Based on
Comic series by Ma Wing Shing

Language
Cantonese

Origin
Hong Kong

This Is the sequel to Storm Riders

Cast-Character
Taken from IMDB.com

Aaron Kwok ... Cloud/Bou King Wan
Ekin Cheng ... Wind/Lit Fung
Kenny Ho ... Nameless/Mou Ming
Nicholas Tse ... Heart/Juet Sum (I would translate that as Heartless)
Charlene Choi ... Tai Yee Mung/Second Dream
Simon Yam ... Juet Mou San/Lord Godless
Suet Lam ... Piggy King
Patrick Tam ... Emperor
Yan Tang ... Chor Chor
Tak-bun Wong ... Lord Wicked/Che San (I would translate that as Lord Evil)
Anson Leung ... Earth
Byron Pang ... Sky

Plot
For the entire plot plus the pivotal role of Ma Wing Shing in the recasting of Ekin and Aaron in respective roles, do read Wikipedia. Exciting stuff but spoilers alert. The directors do not deserve the author I tell you.

Comments
First of all I do not think this is a bad movie. I rarely watch HK movies in the cinema, a treatment now exclusively for Stephen Chow movies so when Storm Warriors came out, like many others I went in to watch, despite the rather negative reviews. I was ready for the criticisms as posed in local papers' reviews and knew what to expect. Of course knowing and watching is 2 different things.

Again, this is to me not a bad movie. It is just a movie that could have been so much better. For one, the story itself is intriguing, but the screenplay was insipid. The technology is amazing, and like the comic book which I have sporadically seen years before (my brother was a big fan of such comics), the kung fu and the styles and all looked like they just walked out of the comic book, in full colour. The costumes are great, making the actors look like the
characters. Some casting I would say is brilliant but many has much to be desired. So with all almost positive sort of things to say, why can't I just admit this is maybe a good movie?

Because as a viewer and somewhat a reviewer deep in my heart, even if I am not proficient in the comic series (from what I read, the story does differ greatly), I realise this movie was badly executed. There are many brilliant ideas, even if borrowed ideas or you may even say stolen ideas or perhaps the comic series may have been the originator of such ideas, whatever it may have been, the execution was poor.

Consider for one the rich material that is the comic series. Ma Wing Shing is renowned for bringing comic series to a new height where the storyline plays an equal if not more important function than the stylistic drawings which were excellent if I must add. Somehow when transporting that story into the movie, the screenwriter(s) chose to strip the entire story and gave us the basic. So we have 2 plotlines; one of Lord Godless and his equally if not more conniving son, Juet Sum launching a series of deadly attacks on the world of Martial arts (mou lam) to conquer China and break the so called backbone of China (you know, the dragon's pulse or however you translate that). And the other plotline is how Fung and Wan had to resort to multiple ways to beat Lord Godless. In the process, the milder heroic Fung had to
demonise himself to increase his kung fu power whilst Wan, usually the more moody one in the process of stopping Fung who could no longer control himself had to decide between killing Fung or not killing Fung. If this was Wan as in the original movie, no doubt he would have killed Fung in an instance. But Wan is a changed man, still as quiet but not as stubborn or hard. I find the story of Lord Godless very interesting and whilst the movie started with Lord Godless, however about midway Lord Godless dies and for the rest of the movie we have endless and scriptless fighting between Fung and Wan just to illustrate the sacrifice of one and the other and I suspect to let the 2 leading ladies have something useful to do.

And that is the main problem with this movie.

When the story shifted to just Fung and Wan and I do really mean just them 2 for over half and hour, the entire movie's pace slackened. Although the Kung Fu became even more elaborate, somehow the entire story fell flat. I appreciate the hard work put by the 2 leading actors in the fighting scenes, and they do look credible but to just focus on fighting and throwing out the story and only to bring it back for the last 5 minutes or so just tells me the directors only seem interested in the glamour and none the substance. I want substance. Many times in the movie I just wished there was more dialogue. I just wish Wan would ask the mysterious fighter "Who the hell are you?!" or scream at Fung and say "Fung, see me! I am Wan!!" instead of leaving that to the last 10 minutes or so. Yes, there is enough intense fighting scenes to satisfy that boy in you who loved the martial arts aspect but I am sure fans of the comic series would have wished that some substance from the series would reflect on the movie screenplay itself.

And the entire concept of the movie is strange.

It started great. I mean the first 10 minutes of the movie will capture your imagination, will satisfy that fanboy in you, will make you wish if only an entire movie is made of the most interesting character that is Nameless and he appears less than I shall say 20 to 25 minutes or so. He also has the coolest fighting scene with his if I translate it correctly, 10 Thousand Sword Stance which has to be seen to be believed. I feel that 10 minutes set the pace for the movie. But then after the singing credit (awful song by the way but nice introduction), the movie just fell flat! And it became worse when Nameless disappears from the screen. Such a charismatic character played brilliantly by a charismatic actor disappears and justifiably so since he is just a guest star but yet I felt both Ekin and Aaron combined can't beat that charisma of this one actor and of one character.

This I feel is due in part to the lack of script. I am convinced Nameless has more lines than both Fung and Wan combined. Juet Sum would have the next most lines with Che Wong (as in Lord Wicked although I would translate it as Lord Evil) coming close at third. Even Patrick Tam's emperor has more lines than Wan! The entire movie is like one long music video with intense fight scenes, like a long martial arts contest. And yet at times it is so quiet that it is so unsettling. Why the lack of script?

And when there is a lack of script even at times when there are no fighting, then the actors better be really bloody good at expressing emotions without script. Problem is we all know Ekin is an iconic actor but not a fine actor. Aaron can be good and can be bad, in this movie his acting is rather like the script, sparse and not exactly good. So to fill in the gaps, we have the actors posing. Lucky for fangirls, half naked posing. Yes Aaron Kwok looks great for his age, Ekin although aged a little looks surprisingly good baring his not that flabby chest and he still looks heroic.

But must we have them staring out into the sky with wind blowing on their beautiful hair and posing for that precious 10 seconds when that could be utilised to tell a story?

Even Lord Godless had so few to say. He seems to stare a lot. Again Simon Yam is not the best actor around but he is competent when he has to be. He is quite scary as Lord Godless, his ruthlessness and his steely eyes which is at most time expressionless and man, he looks great for his age. He is also very convincing in fighting scenes as in pose and move hands a lot. BUT his story arc is so underdeveloped and he is so under-utilised I felt he is practically wasted in this movie. Or maybe I should reword that. He has lots of scenes but somehow his story is not properly told. It's like lots of wasted moments and I wonder what was lost and then I realised too many scenes of him and other characters looking at the other actor, looking at the sky, looking somewhere. Precious seconds wasted. It is not a tightly told story. And with that being said, Nic Tse as Juet Sum is totally wasted. Juet Sum is potentially more ruthless than his father and you can see the dissatisfaction and discord between son and father where son is ambitious and wants to be Emperor himself whilst father is of the philosophy that a kingdom can't be shared even if with his son. And yet totally wasted character who disappears almost at the end without any indication of where he is, except maybe there would be a sequel for the Juet Sum story.

Then there were the other characters. I find Che Wong very interesting because he has such an evil name but he is actually a good guy who chopped off his own hands after he was possessed by his demonic stance and killed innocent people. You see in the mou lam world, people learn kung fu to better themselves, sometimes resorting to wrong methods and often they're filled with remorse. And often these highly skilled fighters refuse to help the country to defend against foreign invasion and they are very very eccentric, like Che Wong, unlike Nameless who is very involved in the world of mou lam. And Che Wong has such a shocking appearance that I was like can't he brush his hair? Oh yeah, no hands but hey he can "throw pebbles". But I find the casting disappointing which I shall elaborate later. Anyway I find Che Wong's character perhaps the most developed quite simply because so much screentime on him.

And then there was the 2 leading ladies. One can act better than the other, but both no less annoying and so cancel out one another.

Please tell me the point of Chor Chor and Second Dream's presence? To show some love? To make us empathise with Fung and Wan? Hey I do empathise with them without annoying Chor Chor and Second Dream. In fact I was so confused. How did Wan met Chor Chor? What is the exact relationship? Because from the get go, we see Wan willingly captured by Lord Godless because Chor Chor was captured. That was what the intro said at the very beginning. Then there was Fung and Second Dream. One 10 seconds scene explained they knew each other via pen pals, never met and then met and they're already in love. Second Dream has self esteem issues as she has a scar on the I think top right of her face. She is the daughter of someone respected and is the beloved somewhat goddaughter of Che Wong. So when she suddenly appeared, it took me some time to realise she went to see Che Wong for Fung. Of course there is the issue of sacrifice and all but the point it this movie started assuming we can just presume there were relationships. But the story then became so disjointed. I thought instead of the movie starting with Nameless and his great escape and all, start with the singing and the comic sketching. And instead of sketching the characters, why not sketch what we are assumed to know? You know like Spiderman 2 I think where we are brought up to speed of Spiderman 1's plot with the intro scene in less than 3 minutes or so. It would give the director some artistic license, the graphic artistes some challenge in presenting what we should know in minutes and also benefit the fans or non-fans who has no idea how the hell Chor Chor or Second Dream feature in the story or more importantly, how the greatest fighter like Nameless and some great fighters shown in the first 10 minutes could be tricked into drinking poison and captured by Lord Godless. I was thinking how? WHO BETRAYED THEM? And who in the end saved them by giving them the antidote?

It was as if the directors were so in awe of the technology and what they could do with it that they had simply forgotten there is one element more important than those CGI stuff; the story. Of course I can buy the idea where the sword instead of slashing someone when flung can release more swords out of thin air. This is after all a martial arts comic series. What I can't understand is how Nameless could be tricked? A bit of explanation would ease the plot a little and make it make more sense and maybe make Chor Chor and Second Dream less cardboard and more full fleshed out. And maybe throw away the emphasis on Fung becoming demon as the main plot and just concentrate on Lord Godless because I just have this feeling after a while Lord Godless serves Fung's demon story and not the other way around and that is just so boring in the end.

And the directors are much too concern with slow motion sequences, from the fighting to when Second Dream was falling and saved by Fung. The expression of Charlene Choi's face is rather comical. And I must mention that whole Dragon's Pulse in the Dragon Tomb can be more subtly presented. Instead seriously we have the skeleton presumably the ancestor of the Emperor there and the pulse is the spine of that skeleton. When the skeleton was broken into 2 I see no consequence so what's the big deal? Maybe the sequel will explain that.

But no denying the movie is beautiful to look at even if a bit barren sometimes.

The tone of sepia and also red to connote blood and blue/green gives it a feel like it walked out of a painting. But it is obvious where te director got the inspiration. Some scenes look awfully familiar, the ones where Juet Sum launched an attack on the mou lam, that is to me 300 the movie. It is in fact 300, except less stylistic. 300 was a beautifully made movie. Then there was the black thing crawling onto Fung when he was becoming a demon as he was in the demon pond. Doesn't that look awfully familiar? Like Spiderman 3 where one of the villains got the same treatment? Even when Lord Godless was marching towards the hidden treasures of the Empire (he doesn't seem to be in such hurry I tell you!) standing on top of a huge how shall I call it? Iron cart in the shape of a lion or something? Kinda reminded me of 300 when the enemy's king was marching towards our heroes, except the villain in 300 was decked out in gold whilst Lord Godless was in heavy colourless armour. Maybe the makers of 300 were inspired by the Tin Ha series perhaps? Who knows.

But one scene which is direct rip off from another movie which had me shaking my head was the end fighting scene between Fung and Wan where they stood looking at one another, in their mind fighting in the rain or some huge drops of sweats from the looks of it, for many many many minutes. THAT is a direct rip off from Zhang Yimou's Hero. Took me quite a while to realise Aaron and Ekin are 2 singers/actors fighting whilst in Hero, it was Jet Li and Donnie Yen fighting, both martial arts champion in their own right. No need for me to say which fight was better. And the thing is Hero was infinitely better filmed in that exact same scene and the entire concept in Hero, why they fought in mind and not physically was an intriguing concept excellently executed. And beautiful too. Back to Storm Warriors, if I am not reminded of Hero, that scene was pretty good too even if way too long. But notice carefully, poor Aaron and Ekin can't lift their legs any higher! But is that necessary? Perhaps it was Zhang Yimou who was inspired by the Tin Ha series? I doubt that. Although in that same scene, Storm Warriors had more special effects whilst in Hero, it was really man to man fight filmed in one long sequence.

But like I said, it is not necessarily a bad movie.

The performance(s) however is like the difference between day and night.

As mentioned above, Ekin Cheng despite looking a bit older and isn't a great actor to begin with still has that heroic iconic look. He serves his character well and I thought he did look convincing as the demon since he is pretty expressionless. You can see he worked very hard for those intense scenes so I appreciate that.

Aaron Kwok is moody, moody, moody all throughout the film, with very very very little to say. That man never ages and he looks great but like Ekin, he is pretty stiff in his performance. But he has more role than Ekin actually. His Wan has very important role to play at the end and fear not, I believe his end is a positive thing, meaning even if there won't be a 3rd part in movie, in comic world, Wan's ending can't be that depressing. I feel he serves his purpose well.

Kenny Ho shocked me. I haven't seen him for years, always remembering him as Chung Wa Ying Hung, not Ekin. Kenny Ho's only weakness is his kinda like pinch the nose sort of voice but he delivered his lines with authority and a certain sense of foreboding. But it was his looks. This man never ever ages! He looked very good, and heroic too. Like Ekin, he has a naturally iconic good guy heroic sort of look and to me he is perfectly cast as Nameless. Love the costume, love the hair, love his performance. He is convincing and he looks great also. I also find it rather funny that when Nameless said he had only 10% of power left, he could still beat the rest of the lot. Oh how I wish a movie is made of him having 100% power!! If there is a reason why this movie rocks, I will make it plainly clear; Kenny Ho. That's it.

Simon Yam is competent even if underused and then discarded like he was nothing. I felt his Lord Godless was interesting although at times he does look expressionless. Like I said, he is not a great actor but again serves his purpose well. Anyway I didn't even know Lord Godless is supposed to be Japanese until I saw the intro.

You may not like Nicholas Tse's performance as Juet Sum but I feel that is due more to the script rather than Nicholas Tse. I tell you he has perfected the "I wanna slap this face" look. That arrogance, that cruelty, that hidden evil, that dissatisfaction, you can see it all in his precious minutes of performance. Clearly his performance lives up to the name Juet Sum. What a pity his character was not properly developed.

Wong Tak Bun as Che Wong is a miscast. First of, yes he has the body, the height and even the depressing looks but to me he can stand there and yet not have an iota of heroicness, like Chinese say, "Yat Toi Jung See" or Master of Masters sort of look. I always thought he was boring. I was quite shocked he was given such a prominent role. In fact I thought I saw Joe Ma in the starting scene, one of the masters who sacrificed themselves to save Nameless and gang.

The best actor however goes to Patrick Tam. He is the emperor, not even robed and looked messy and yet there is a certain kingliness to him, an authority. That scene where Juet Sum held his family ransom, killing the wife and threatened to kill the son unless the secret of the treasure is revealed, that desperation in his eyes, his pain, all in that 5 minutes performance or less beat the rest of the cast in this movie. Give this man a Best Supporting Actor award! And check out that scene with Aaron's Wan, how he was reluctant to beg but had to go down on his knees but stopped by Wan. That pride! And also that scene where his men (soldiers) turned their backs against Lord Godless and how he understood the difficulties faced by then. In fact I just described the entire appearance by Patrick Tam! Other than

Nameless as an iconic character and coolest performance, in retrospect Patrick Tam gave this movie the acting chops.

The same can't be said of the rest of the main players.

Tang Yan as Chor Chor. I was reading another review posted at SPCNET and this is apparently the character played originally by Shu Qi. No wonder the hair looks quite the same. Again if we are reminded of that in the first 10 minutes song sequence, there wouldn't be much confusion! Anyway between the 2 as in Charlene Choi or even Shu Qi, I find her performance tolerable even if her dubbed voice is annoying. However since I do not know where her character suddenly comes from, I find her Chor Chor annoying even if her ending shocking. As for the love connection, there isn't any. Just to give Aaron some excuse to give more than one dimensional performance as Wan.

Charlene Choi as I have mentioned many times before is god awful. Make that universally god awful. I must admit she looked pretty since she seems caked in 10 layers of powder thus making her look very pretty with flawless complexion which I am sure she has. Her costume, hair, make up all perfect. BUT her performance is not. First of her voice is annoying. The way she delivered her lines with concern sounded fake. I was hoping she would be the one running in between Fung and Wan as they fought but apparently her Second Dream is not that giving a person. And her name is silly but that is the author's fault. I was irritated that she showed no expression when poor Chor Chor met with such an ending. In fact she showed no expression throughout. Her casting is probably to attract her fanbase because quite frankly I can see no other reason. I did ask in my original post whether when she looked at herself on the screen magnified ten fold whether she asked herself did she do a good job and whether she realised she was god awful? I also mentioned she was also a waste of oxygen in the movie and I stand by that. Why this movie sucks is because of her although she is not the only reason but she is one of the bigger reason. Can someone just tell Miss Choi either she buck up, go take speech lesson and learn to move her face since she can't be that old to have been injected with botox which freezes her face to the point she can't express concern, happiness, fear, pain, etc? Please?

Everybody else pretty standard, no one stood out even if there were a few more annoying ones.

Verdict
In retrospect, Storm Riders was a better movie where technology and CGI serves the story and not the other way around. This present movie is too in awe with the technology aspect that it sacrificed the characters and the story. The story became muddled, confusing and irrelevant. Performance wise, a few notable ones I have named above but generally the performances were less than satisfactory, some caused by the actors themselves but some by the lack of a steady consistent good script. I think in the end when you stopped being in awe of the beautiful aspect of the movie you will realise just maybe it is a bad movie in that sense. You may say the directors did a credible job bringing the vision to life but to me the story is more important and that the directors failed miserably. If you need any reason to watch this movie, which I doubt you do since you will run to the cinema for it, watch it for Kenny Ho's Nameless. I don't think there has been any character than leave such an impact in a movie by doing so little. Well actually he did a lot but you know what I mean. Like I said the 1st 10 minutes itself is worth half the price of the admission ticket but in the end the rest of the sporadically exciting but mostly dull movie cancel the other half of that worthiness.

Best Scene
Kenny Ho looks fantastic! May I repeat brilliant casting!

Interesting Prop
The fans. I mean the hair blowing all the time, so beautifully thanks to the fans. I have a feeling many may have been replaced because burnt out for overuse! And hair extensions as well.

Interesting Artwork
You can't fault the artwork which I suspect the author may had something to do with it! Gorgeous renderings of the
characters, teaser posters, etc. Check out the official website for more. Love the official site! Must check out the comic artwork section!!

The teaser posters and official posters

The Artwork of the characters


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