The Promise (Wu Ji)


Reviewed by: sukting

January 08, 2006

Rating: three

Foreword
I am a fan of sword fighting dramas so how can I miss the so-called most expensive fantasy epic in Chinese movie history? How does Dong Gun fare in his first Chinese movie? "The Promise" is said to be surrounded by blissfulness, love and freedom. Does it show a true picture? Many thanks to Ming Hua for getting the free movie passes so that we can watch together.

Story

Qing Cheng is a poor girl who loses her parents at war. She steals a bun from a general's son after pretending to agree to be his slave. Later, she bursts to tears near a river. A goddess, Man Shen promises her a luxurious life. But in exchange, she will not get true love - even if she gets to taste it, she loses it immediately.

Only when the dead is revived, the time is reversed and also the river flows in the opposite direction, she will get her true love. Qing Cheng accedes to it. (This scene is like a Chinese painting - like a mirror showing reflection in water. Very impressive.)

20 years later, Guang Ming wants to get all slaves to lure the enemy into the valley. His 2000 men are supposed to kill 30,000 enemies. He uses meat to lure them to help him. Kun Lun jumps high for it and Guang Ming steps on it before giving to him. (Dong Gun's fans will pity him in here.) Then all the slaves start running when the bulls are after their heels.

Can you believe that Kun Lun is the only one who stops and yet doesn't get killed before he starts running. (Like what a movie reviewer says - he looks like a roadrunner and my impression is - this scene is very unrealistic. The special effects are unreal. )

Kun Lun's master is frightened of death so he wants him to carry him on his back. (As if he is still a baby but he isn't injured at all.) They try to climb up the cliff but Guang Ming shoots his arrows with his men. Kun Lun has to lure the bulls back into the valley to kill the enemies. (It is so stupid to see him running in circles, though.)

So they win in the end. Kun Lun is sad when his master dies - Guang Ming kills him instantly with his arrow during the shoot. Guang Ming likes Kun Lun who moves fast and wants him to be his slave. He agrees as there is meat to eat.

The soldiers have a celebration and the soldiers throw Guang Ming up and down. (A very magnificent sight to see so many soldiers doing that.) Kun Lun and Guang Ming get lost in a forest. Guang Ming meets Man Shen and she shows him his fate. A person wearing his metal warrior armour kills the emperor to save Qing Cheng and he gets shocked.

How can he be doing such a thing? Man Shen predicts that the valley victory is the last one for him. He will lose his life when he sheds a tear to like a woman. She shows him the way out and he becomes Gui Lang's target of attack. Gui Lang wants his metal armour but Kun Lun stops him.

Gui Lang recognizes that he is from Snow Country and lets him go - strange that he doesn't seize the metal armour as he has the chance?! Guang Ming injures his leg so he gets Gun Lun to go and save the emperor on his behalf in the metal armour. (Too bad he only looks glamourous in very few scenes.) He rides on horseback to rush there. Gun Lun sets on his journey while now Wu Huan has the city surrounded - wanting the emperor to give Qing Cheng to him. The emperor refuses and Qing Cheng appears.

She asks the soldiers what they want to see what she wears beneath her clothes. But sorry to disappoint all - she only removes her cloak and shows her Tang dynasty clothes. Only this already causes the soldiers to gasp, kneel and also drop their weapons to stop attacking. The emperor is pleased and wants her to remove more clothes. She suddenly wants the army to attack him instead. (Good grief, she acts like a vixen in here.) Sure enough, they do it.

The emperor gets so angry that he stars running after her, wanting to kill her. She runs to the edge of the rooftop and nearly falls to death from there. (I must confess that this scene is done beautifully when she falls gracefully.) Kun Lun has no choice but to strike his sword at the emperor and saves her to lead her away. They reach a cliff and she is about to jump from there. Kun Lun holds her back and wants her not to kill herself but to live on.

Wu Huan surrounds them and agrees to let her go if he jumps down the waterfall. Alas, he does to save her and she gets very upset to be taken away. She is locked in a cage and Wu Huan treats her like a trapped bird, giving her a white feathery cloak. Guang Ming is tied up and sneered by his comrades for killing the emperor. He protests his innocence in vain and gets beaten. Man Shen comes again and shakes her head.

He will never get his true love. But Qing Cheng will break the spell when she meets her true love as they meet to make the sun and moon see each other. She releases him and he gets mad with Kun Lun who kneels to him for forgiveness. He commands Kun Lun to rescue Qing Cheng. So Kun Lun sneaks into Wu Huan's residence. Seeing her sleeping, he ties a red rope around her waist and pulls her out of the cage.

Next is the most unthinkable way of rescuing someone. Kun Lun is pulling her like a kite to run out of there! (I am totally unconvinced by this scene. Some call it romantic but I regard it stupid.) Wu Huan uses his flying dagger to cut the rope. Qing Cheng screams as she nearly falls to her death. (sigh - AGAIN!) Kun Lun catches her on time but they are trapped in the palace as the door close.

He manages to force Wu Huan aside to lead her out of the door. Can you believe that the troops like her so much that they chase after a feather which drops from her feather cloak?! They only stop when Wu Huan holds the feather. How ungrateful this woman can be - she stops running with him upon seeing Guang Ming in the armour.

Thinking that he is her saviour, she releases Kun Lun's hand and runs to him, getting on the horseback. (Stupid woman to have zero instinct to recognize the armour but not the person - can't she feel the warmth and resemblance when Kun Lun saves her again?)

How sad Kun Lun is upon forcing the doors open to make way for the horse to gallop over him. They retreat to a small cottage and Guang Ming lies that he has saved her before. (Luckily she has not asked him for the words that he has spoken to her before.)

Kun Lun, as the slave, has to make the beds for both of them. He sees her in the nude when she finishes her bath in the stream. She grasps and puts her hands over her chest. (This place is wonderful like a flower home.)

Guang Ming and Qing Cheng land up in bed. (Sorry to say that this scene is cut when I watched in the cinema which I simply don't understand. From here onwards, I have little understanding of what message Chen Kai Ge is trying to convey.) Qing Cheng decides to leave the next day and Guang Ming gives her his horse reluctantly. He also drives Kun Lun away although he still wants to be his slave. Kun Lun walks till he is nearly frozen to death.

Gui Lang tails him secretly and saves him. He brings him into the past where he sees his mother and sister. Gui Lang finds him still too slow in his running and he trains him. Alas, he finally gets into the past to see how his tribesmen are killed by Wu Huan. He has wanted them to be his slaves as they run fast. His sister hurts Wu Huan's face with her comb, refusing to submit to him. Thus the whole tribe is killed but Kun Lun can't change this fact to reverse the past.

Gui Lang pleads for his own life when he is nearly burned to death. So Wu Huan makes him his slave, forcing him to wear the crow cloak. He will remain as his slave for the rest of his life or he will turn to ashes when removing it. Since then, Gui Lang becomes his assassin as there is no way to defeat him. Kun Lun blames Gui Lang for being a coward but he maintains that he has never killed anyone.

Kun Lun returns to the present. Seeing how Guang Ming still pinning for Qing Cheng, he brings him to the past so that he can catch up with her and be reunited. When they do, Guang Ming suddenly sees the sun and the moon coming together in the sky. He prevents her for noticing it when Kun Lun approaches them. Kun Lun decides to leave them for good.

Guang Ming's subordinates wish him to return to be their general after they defeat Wu Huan. They show him his stick (which is unusually funny as it shows a finger pointing upwards.) Guang Ming becomes ambitious again when his men kneel in front of him.

He chooses to give up a simple and quiet life. Qing Cheng is displeased with this to tell the men to continue kneeling but has no choice to let him leave. Guang Ming comes to look at Wu Huan who seems to be strangled to death by a rope.

Suddenly Wu Huan attacks him and gets caught. Guang Ming is so stupid - doesn't he know that Wu Huan is invincible? He is not pleased - it seems that Guang Ming's clothes are sewn by Qing Cheng.

He laughs haughtily - it seems that Guang Ming is still his idol as he manages to cut a finger from his stick. Qing Cheng requests Kun Lun to save Guang Ming before she gets captured.

But Kun Lun is also captured to be trapped in the cage. Wu Huan forces Gui Lang to kill Kun Lun. Gui Lang comes to the cage to find the rope being broken but Kun Lun returns as he finds no way out. (Urgh - unbelievable - isn't he able to do that when he saves Qing Cheng the first time?) He is wounded by Gui Lang and is puzzled as he has said that he will not kill anyone from the snow country.

He manages to make Gui Lang change his mind and Gui Lang rescues him, leaving part of his crow robe behind. Wu Huan isn't happy to see this. He tells Qing Cheng that she has loved the wrong man but she doesn't believe him. Wu Huan decides to let the elders interrogate Guang Ming the next day. When Kun Lun tries to save Guang Ming, he tells him to rescue Qing Cheng instead as he will face his own fate.

Kun Lun wants the metal armour and Gui Lang tries to get it for him. Wu Huan prevents him from getting it and wants him to exchange it for his life. Sure enough, he gives the armour to Kun Lun before he turns to ashes. (This scene makes no sense as combing their forces, they can kill Wu Huan instantly and why must he give in to him?!) Kun Lun sheds tears.

When Kun Lun visits Qing Cheng, she wants him to save Guang Ming or she will die with him. This Qing Cheng doesn't notice that he is so properly dressed with his hair tied up nicely to detect that something is wrong. (Dong Gun looks very dashing in here.) He obeys and on the next day, he admits to be the one killing the emperor and not Guang Ming. Guang Ming's plan to conceal the truth is ruined. Qing Cheng says that Guang Ming has said that both will die together at the cliff. She is astonished when Kun Lun corrects her - no, he tells her to carry on living.

She is alarmed and also disgusted by Guang Ming's act that she slaps him. The elders decide that the three must be put to death. The three are tied in different places in the garden - Qing Cheng to a chair, Guang Ming to the ceiling by a rope hanging down while Kun Lun to a tree. Wu Huan shows Qing Cheng the bun and crushes it into pieces. Qing Cheng realises that he is the general's son.

Qing Cheng makes Wu Huan lose the chance to be a good person. Their love leaves Guang Ming touched. (Seeing how Wu Huan and Guang Ming shedding tears over it is the most hilarious moment for all.) Wu Huan wants Guang Ming to wear the crow's cloak to be his slave.

Guang Ming fights with Wu Huan and gets killed - so is Kun Lun who is seriously injured by Wu Huan but Kun Lun manages to stab Wu Huan. (Please pardon me for making such a loose description as I am not happy with how the fighting scenes are designed - they look more like souls floating in the air where you see nothing clearly- just like Ekin's 'A Chinese Hero'. )

Even before dying, Kun Lun wants Qing Cheng to look at Guang Ming before he dies. Sure enough, she hugs his body and cries. Kun Lun finally makes a selfish decision that one can never think of. He struggles to wear the cloak to survive while letting his master die! How amazing but it is a wise decision. He then carries Qing Cheng on his back - wanting to travel to the past together to change the history. They are going against Man Shen's prophecy to make sure that she gets his true love. Or to let his family live again?

Introduction on characters

1. Kun Lun - Jang Dong Gun (Korean Qing Long film award best actor)
Kun Lun is a slave who runs fast. He is innocent to have a pair of attractive eyes. He follows Guang Ming after failing to save his previous master - just because he has meat. He is a family man and when falls deeply in love, he will not hesitate to sacrifice. But when it comes to saving his own life, he chooses the crow cloak instead of giving it to Guang Ming. He is quite practical. This isn't a selfish act but a must.

Dong Gun's eyes can melt ice into water. When he sheds tears, I am sure that all will want to give him a hug. His performance is steady throughout. He slips into the periodic costumes comfortably - how I wish there are more scenes of him wearing the armour - he looks stunning in it.

However, if you compare this to hid previous works, blame on the director who made his role one-dimensional which did not allow him to surpass himself. There were many scenes but we could see little change in the face expressions as he could only rely on his body language and eyes to convey his acting ability.

2. General Guang Ming - Hiroyuki Sanada (well acclaimed stage actor and thrice best actor for Japan film awards)
Guang Ming is an unfeeling person who doesn't know what love is and doesn't believe that he will cry one day. After Kun Lun poses him to save Qing Cheng, he is mistaken by his men to be a rebel but Qing Cheng to be her saviour. From the first day he meets her, he becomes soft and also sly - to keep the truth from her. But he is still willing to sacrifice for her.

The big flower armour is supposed to represent glory and also dream but looks more like a joke. Hiroyuki acted like a person toying with his life. Phew - a good thing Hiroyuki took up this role instead. He makes a better choice. I adore his manly Guang Ming in the beginning. He is authoritative but later, when he becomes lustful - he has the extent of looking feminine at times to give me the creeps. I prefer him in the earlier part - he is more at ease in the armour and not the silk robe.

3. Wu Huan - Tse Ting Fung (Many might have forgotten but he has once received 'Best Newcomer' in Hong Kong film awards
Wu Huan is a Duke who doesn't trust anyone. There is a reason behind it - because of Qing Cheng's betrayal. He only likes all to be his slaves to have the delight of locking them up in cages. To make Qing Cheng his swan and Gui Lang to be his crow. I don't know what he intends to make Kun Lun to be - a parrot perhaps as his clothing is colourful? His weapon is the iron fan and his trademark is the finger stick.

It is not said why he is invincible but it is strange that he can die in Kun Lun's hands. Ting Feng's metal armour appearance looks special like a eagle. It is like he is too free to change into a different outfit when he shows his face. But he really lost out to the above 2 actors in height and acting experience.

Unlike the guys who ooze maturity, he is like a delinquent who needs counseling and growing up. He presented Wu Huan is like a eunuch in a Peking opera. But I do agree with others that the unforgettable scene where he sheds tears blaming Qing Cheng to deprive him of the chance to be a good man is a true classical comedy scene. He can reach Chow Sing Chee's standard soon.

4. Qing Cheng - Cheung Pak Chi (Best Actress and Newcomer awards in Hong Kong film awards)
Qing Cheng is a concubine looking for true love. The 3 men love her but her eyes are fixed on Guang Ming because she thinks that he saves her. Only when she realizes that Kun Lun is the one, she starts to regret but gets to be with him in the end. This woman only knows how to show her asserts to save her own skin.

Pak Chi has turned Qing Cheng to be a slut. She only seems eager to remove her clothes hastily to bare her shoulders to look sexy and to yell when she is in trouble. Her acting is really terrible although she looks like Cheung Man Yoke at certain angles.

I don't find her having chemistry with anyone. There is no depth in her role - she is neither elegant nor sweet. She should concentrate more on her looks than acting. Maybe it is not her fault as I find cuts here and there. But really, she has to brush up her acting skills.

5. Gui Lang (the ghost wolf) - Liu Ye (Taiwan Golden Horse Award best actor)
He is a coward who is so scared of death to become a slave. But no one can expect him to exchange his life for dignity and bravery. Most think that Liu's makeup is the most attention seeking to look scary but I also say that he gives a flop as the character isn't likeable. How to find out whether he acts well when he is half hidden by the veil and also the horrible makeup?

But you will find me strange to say this but I still think Liu deserves credit. Dong Gun did not really spar that much exchange with the others but with him because they do have lots of chemistry with each other. Is it because they are 'fellow countrymen' in this story?!

6. Man Shen (full goddess) - Chen Hong
I can't help feeling that Director Chen is so unfair to give his wife such a wonderful role. Although hers isn't a meat role but is the only one to know the past and the future. Her look is so elegant and fairy-like.

Interesting facts (Luckily the cast made their promise to promote the movie in different countries. And Dong Gan was the only one to make the Singapore visit, to the delight of all!)

Director Chen has mentioned that the 4 lead actors have improved tremendously in here. He chose the cast personally. Dong Gun has attractive eyes, Hiroyuki is experienced in stage performances to change Guang Ming from confident to arrogant, Liu Ye showed his exaggerating powers from the Beijing acting academy while Ting Feng was changed from cold to soft. (But many looked more like girlish in my opinion.)

This movie used US35 million and 3 years to shoot. It ran a week in China's Cheng Du to qualify for Oscar submission. Tse's fans asked why he was absent from the movie posters. Director Chen denied gossip that it was due to him being unable to turn up for a promotion activity. Dong Gun ruled out romance chances with Pak Chi because of the language barrier.

The cage match between Gui Lang and Kun Lun took 1 minute on screen but 8 days to shoot. The computer effects had more than 3000 angles which did not lose out to normal Hollywood films but I still think the standard isn't at par. 100 bulls were involved in the shoot and when the scene required Kun Lun to escape, Dong Gun puffed because he still had another man on his back.

Director Chen also went to different parts of China to shoot the scenes. Pak Chi wanted to shoot the steamy scenes so that the audience would not forget her. She requested the scenes to make herself look sexy and joked that she would woo Director Chen if not for his wife, Hong. Ting Feng was about to sleep in the hotel room after shooting when the television starting burning. He refused to trouble the others and put out the fire on his own but he became as dark as charcoal.

The costumes went over 16000. One set would be the lovers' costumes. Each needed 20m of cloth and 4 days to sew manually. The flowers were drawn and later sewn using golden thread. Pak Chi had 5 styles in here. One was a green peacock costume that revealed her shoulders. (I don't see this in the movie - I feel like yelling - how many cuts has the movie endured to make it to the big screen?!) The feather cloak was most expensive which took from all Beijing geese during the bird flu season. Another was black.

The designer was from Japan - a comic artist Zheng Zi Gong Ye to work together with Mr Yip to complete the task. They made 300 costumes and changed accordingly to the characters' personalities. Man Shen's outlook was from the idea from Goddess of Mercy but they added ribbons and her hair to defy the force of gravity to show that she has no boundaries.

The metal armour came from the idea of a Peking opera face while the flowers on in showed that the joy they had in wearing them. (It looked more like a wedding costume.) Guang Ming's weapon came from Peking opera's artistes' weapons. Wu Huan's eagle head armour and the white colours show his cruelty.

Gui Lang's long black robe showed how he was controlled and half his face was concealed by a veil, showing his two faces. Zheng Zi Gong also added many snake bites to show his complicated parentage.

The so called bed scene which had Pak Chi only wearing an ancient singlet while Hiroyuki was on her was said to be hot. He not only kissed her neck and shoulder but also used his hands to touch her breasts. It was said that he applied so much force that the singlet was nearly loose. (Unfortunately, I don't get to see this scene at all in the cinema. Looks like I really need to get the complete version dvd.)

The other had her covering her bare top from Dong Gun showed off her figure. But Ng Kwan Yu accused her of putting the frame by computers. She also commented that all actors looked weak in there. So when Dong Gun came to Singapore, reporters tried to verify with him. He replied her asserts were real.

Ting Feng claimed that gripping the iron fan too tightly had caused him to lose the ability to bend his right index finger. The film finished filming on his birthday and all celebrated for him. Pak Chi splashed the cake's cream on his face and he did the same to her.

Director Chen was fair to all and sometimes brewed soup for Pak Chi. But he had high expectations from Hong. When he discovered that she didn't do well, he would scold her till her eyes turn red, scaring the rest.

Director Chen had to show Dong Gun how to kiss Pak Chi with the cage separating them. Dong Gun could not stop laughing as he really had to act like a beast. He had to imagine himself to be a lion or tiger. But alas, this scene was cut. Reporters asked if he felt his effort was wasted. He supported the idea that it should be cut since it wasn't fit into the scenario. When reporters ask if he was afraid that this would damage his looks, he was past caring over it since he was presented as a slave anyway.

Pak Chi mentioned that his eyes could send power shocks to her but he replied that he treated her like a younger brother. This movie drained off his energy. The 6 months in Beijing caused him to injure his right leg muscle.

He was over tired and fainted due to heat stroke. But even so, the working crew told the press that he had no airs. After resting a while, he continued the running scenes as he did not wish to delay the filming. when even Director Chen was worried that the armour was too heavy for him, Dong Gun could answer in fluent Mandarin that he could handle it. Thus no one could pick on him.

The most worrying part was to speak his lines in Mandarin. He didn't sleep well before every shoot as he was conscious of the 4 intonations. It was said that he repeated so many times that his throat was exerted to the point of bleeding during the dubbing process.

The recording director revealed that Dong Gun learned for a long time under a Chinese teacher before stepping into the recording studio. Especially the sentence - 'getting meat to eat when following you' - 'gen zhe ni you rou chi' became 'following the table to eat something hollow' - gen zhuo ni you luo chi.

Luckily his lines were not many and regarding the fact Kun Lun was a slave, they did not demand much. They 'released' him after 6 days but after hearing Hiroyuki's presentation, they called him back.

Why? Hiroyuki spoke too well (I agreed wholeheartedly - his intonation is very accurate.) Dong Gun listened to Hiroyuki's dubbing. Koreans are perfectionists and refuse to admit defeat easily. He requested to record again. Hiroyuki and Dong Gun got along well by conversing in simple English. They exchanged their working experience and acting secrecy. But they still don't know Mandarin after taking up their free time to memorize the script.

They could handle the scenes with the others but not when they faced each other. They had lots of n.g.s. Strange, isn't it? Pak Chi commented that both guys were so nice to her that she was so frightened of falling in love with them. (Too bad, both were levelheaded not to fall in love with her, though.)

Dong Gun shed tears when watching it the first time - not just by the story but the harsh acting conditions of 40 degrees he faced with the others. Dong Gun had thought of Pak Chi to be quiet but she turned out to be friendly. He missed kimchi and it was said that he lost appetite when the supply ran out. Emergency supplies had to be brought in from Beijing into the remote areas.

The Beijing promotion was done in -8 degree temperature. The vain Pak Chi still insisted of turning up in a black low cut dress but later she had to ask Ting Feng to get an assistant to get her a jacket. The four braved the cold to get to the Great Wall of China. All were excited as they had not been there before.

Dong Gun came to Singapore on 14 Dec 2005. 1000 people received him at the airport. 2000 turned up at Heeren. He was worth the wait of my 3 hours as he was so much good looking off screen with a tan. His face and physique was thinner than 'All about Eve'. He arrived at 7pm, sending the crowd wild. Unfortunately most of the time, the foreign media blocked the view.

Dong Gun's weight hit 71kg, which was 9kg away from his last weight. He jogged that all the running in the movie helped as he trained on the treadmill and cycled. He had been too busy for the past 3 years and did not train up at all. All of us loved his low, husky voice and he waved to us who stood in different directions.

There was a competition on who resembled Pak Chi and Dong Gun. All cracked up when a 3 year old boy won the contest. He did look like him and all joked that he was his nephew or his future son.

I was lucky to be the 28th among the 50 people who could get Dong Gun's signature poster (which became my collector's item) and also his handshake. His fans include middle-aged mothers (one asked me how to write how to welcome him to Singapore in English to show him.) and young students plusworking adults.

One cried for 10 minutes after shaking his hand. I could not describe how excited and thrilled I was then when I shook his hand. (Same as in 'All About Eve' - he does have long slender fingers.)

Although it was visible that he was tired and he wore shades, he could still let us feel his warmth and patience. Just like Director Yin in 'All About Eve' who is understanding and polite. He thanked us for coming after signing on the movie poster to give to us and shaking our hands. That was sure an unforgettable day for all of us! (His coming made my wish of meeting the 4 Korean drama kings complete.)

500 fans mobbed him at the charity movie premiere. He only finished his dinner midway before rushing to meet the fans at the cinema in a dark suit and white shirt upon knowing they have waited for him for a long time. (Too bad, I was too busy to go here again.) He was still in top form after only sleeping in Hong Kong for 2 hours.

And when he reached the hotel at 11.30pm, he opened a bottle of red wine that his fan gave him to drink and read letters to him at the same time. Normally megastars would leave the fans' presents behind but he took everything with him on the plane.

Dong Gun's press conference sent many female reporters giddy as they nearly forgot what to ask him upon looking into his attractive eyes. Many had wanted to keep the bottle of water or cup that he used but they were missing after that. (Guess one person was swift to grab them.)

He looked at reporters who asked him questions and smiled politely. He was earnest in answering but too bad his interpreter did a loose translation. He answered all sentences but the lady only gave short answers, making all grumbling.

Many liked his manager who did not 'screen' questions - even on those sensitive ones. All were so happy, wishing him to come more frequently. The media became his fans. He also thanked the bodyguards, chauffeur and other working staff personally before leaving. It is really hard not to like him.

When talked about Kun Lun willing to sacrifice for Qing Cheng at first sight, he commented that Kun Lun's love was too 'hot' and he could never be like him. He was initially given the role of Guang Ming but Director Chen changed his mind after meeting him. He thought he looked innocent with his eyes and persuaded him to change his mind. He wished there would be a sequel to work together again. (So do I so that he can come to Singapore again.)

This movie broke box office in China. It became the most discussed film - people either like it or hate it to make all flock to the cinema to find out. Some illegal 80rmb(S$18) tickets were sold at 300rmb (about S$67) but people kept buying. Can you believe that the cinemas screened it from morning to dusk? The Shanghai residents gave the traffic police a lot of pressure to make a big crowd. Well, the slot I went to in Singapore was a normal weekday of 3 pm timing where only 20 of us were in the cinema. What a contrast!

During the Taiwan promotion, Pak Chi had flu but still wore a thin Valentino gown to walk in the 8 degree temperature. She caught flu because she bared too much from Beijing, Hong Kong to Shanghai. (Her fashion designers really had nothing better to do in the planning or she herself volunteered for the attention?)

She missed the reporters' conference and smiled little at the premiere. Hiroyuki specially helped her to walk off stage upon seeing how frail she looked.

They joked on the shooting. Pak Chi had told Hiroyuki that there wasn't any place on her he could not touch. So he looked forward to the shooting day for their bed scene and shouted 'I'm ready, let's go!' Hong mentioned not only Hiroyuki, the shooting crew was also excited.

Those who were not involved also volunteered to help out. Hiroyuki reached Taipei a day before them and was touched when fans mob him at the airport entrance. He was patient to sign for all and had photos shot with them.

What was the phrase which was hardest to pronounce? For Dong Gun, it was 'zu ren' - master. For Hiroyuki, it was 'wang cheng' - the imperial palace. Director Chen joked that he really took a long time to master it - he often said 'wang' wrongly. But Hiroyuki did not allow himself to be understated. He pronounced it correctly on the spot and all clapped for him.

Dong Gun went to Taiwan alone after the rest. The film authorities got a dragon head accessory for him but when he received it, the head of it suddenly fell. Dong Gun was taken aback but still smiled to disperse the uneasiness. (Can't believe such a thing happened as it was such a bad omen.) The host, Huang Zi Jiao joked probably his role in the film was a slave so he could not get a dragon head.

The movie was nominated for best foreign language film for Golden Globe Awards while it was also China's official selection for Oscar (so relieved that it didn't made it to the end as it's not up to standard.)and Berlin film festival too. It was said to be the east version of 'Lord of the rings (this is definitely also overrated).

I can't imagine how foreign critics will rate it.) It made up a dream team. Besides Oscar's best photographer, Bao Tuck Hei, best art director Yip Kum Tim and best song writer Lores. They also had HK action directors Dong Wai and Lam Tuck On.

An online writer, Hu Ge translated 'The promise' into 'a mureer caused by a bun'. Chen alleged that he was going to sue him as Hong thought He Ge's apology wasn't sincere enough. It was up to the court to justify now.

The crew took hours to prepare the palace scenes.Dong Gun had no complains in waiting for a few hours. Worrying that the armour could be too heavy on his head, the crew offered to take it off but he assured them in fluent Mandarin that he was fine with it.

Before the movie was shown, many got to listen to the conversations on air first. Most did not know that the actors spoke in their own voices. Director Chen laughed continuously when one even asked him if Dong Gan was from Xin Jiang as he spoke fluently!

The Chinese authorities were not happy with how Chen ruined Shangrila after the shoot. The crew threw bottles and littered everywhere. What made worse was how the flowers and trees were being trampled on. This might be the last we get to see the place in a movie.

Conclusion

Chen Kai Ge has not made a good promise. This movie isn't promising. He is too ambitious and arrogant to call it a masterpiece. I call it a 'spectacular failure'. It is not a historic film but is a comedy.

Many scenes like 'what do you wish to see underneath my clothes' 'the kite display', 'I am touched by your love' became hit laughable verses in the internet. They might think the lines were poetic but I found them awkward although they tickle my funny bone.

Director Chen was pleased with the attention but I am not. I feel that he screwed up a masterpiece, wasting the talents of his strong cast (which included award winning actors and actresses). It is fine trying new things out but he has gone to the extreme.

He really owed them a good explanation and apology. Too many praises leave him arrogant over his past success and has neglected the importance of coming up with a good plot instead of stressing on how to 'beautify'his movie.

Unlike other movies, my understanding of this one is very limited. I don't see how it becomes the most expensive movie in China history. If fans know me, I am a very practical person who is very demanding on periodic movies.

This one is really a big letdown for me. It is easy to please foreign critics but for Asians, it is hard to pass and satisfy. It is definitely below standard.

I don't deny the scenes are well shot but it is an empty shell. Director Chen believes too much in making his own world and 'forces' us to accept it. The dialogues seem touching but not really so - so fake, so untruthful and awkward. And Director Chen is overly obsessed with birds. From the swan robe to the crow robe to the bird cage, is he hinting that humans are trapped forever?

Everything is in circles. The palace, the bulls in the valley, the cage, Gui Lang's duel with Wu Huan in the room, the elders interrogating Guang Ming and the last garden scene when the 4 are together. Does that imply that their fate is sealed in a circle? I am not that sure but I know my brain was running in circles and getting giddy midway confused by what Director Chen was trying to say.

The movie makes it bearable because Dong Gun and Hiroyuki exude an appeal. But only Dong Gun looks completely manly while the others seem out of place. My comment for his periodic outlook - he may seem unsightly but his well chiseled looks can't be concealed. He is even more attractive than Pak Chi.

Thumbs up to him and Hiroyuki's attempts to speak the Mandarin lines personally. Sorry to disappoint hard core Dong Gun's fans but Hiroyuki really did a better job.

So did Ting Feng and Liu Ye. I did not know why Pak Chi chose someone else to dub her voice. What a pity. She seemed distant and offered less sincerity to her role then. She wasn't confident or because her voice was coarse? I have no answer for this but this is not professional enough in my view.

Director Chen is simply no match to Director Zhang Yi Mou in shooting periodic movies. The latter might offer some jokes in 'House of Flying Daggers' and 'Hero' but the movies can still be considered as epics because of the marvelous fighting scenes and easy-to-understand plot. Director Chen did a poor imitation of him. I am utterly disappointed by Director Chen's wasting of time and money. How can a movie that took 3 years to shoot turn out to be like this?!

I know fans will still watch it despite my review to find out how good or bad it is. I am not completely duped into watching it as it does offers good scenes. This movie is still entertaining but please do not harbour too high hopes on it to get disappointed.

Sukting's ratings :

On acting : ***1/2 (Scale of 5)

On story : *** (Scale of 5)

On song : *** (Scale of 5)


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