Director: Andrew Lau
Lip Fung / Wind - Ekin Cheng Yee Kin
Bo Ging Wan / Cloud - Aaron Kwok Fu Shing
Chor-Chor / Muse - Shu Kay
Hung Ti / Charity - Kristy Yang Gong Yee
Hong Ba / Conquer - Tin Yip Jun Yut - Sonny Chiba
Tuern Suern / Frost - Michael Tse Tin Wah
Man Chow-Chow - Cheng Don Suern
Dok Gu Ming - Gee Wing Surn

A lot of people liked "The Storm Riders" (SR) movie when it came out. I've read quite a few reviews online and most showered the movie with compliments on its CGI renderings and special effects. Several even compared the fighting sequences in SR to Final Fantasy battle scenes. While I do admit that the special effects were really cool, and considering its big budget in terms of Hong Kong cinema at the time (some $10 million), the movie was a visual feast.

Plot-wise though, SR is a big flop. There is no way to put about 50-60 comic issues into a 130 minute movie without losing most of the character development. The alterations and cuts made to the storyline were also a bit disappointing. Someone said in their review that fans of the comics would love this movie, whereas I think it is the total opposite. Only fans of the comics would notice these major changes or tiny nuances that SR failed to bring across.

The mutated plot is still familiar. Hong Ba, translated into Conquer (Sonny Chiba), sought out the Mud Buddha (Lai Yui Chueng) to predict his future and was promised world dominance if he could get Wind (Ekin Cheng) and Cloud (Aaron Kwok) as his disciples. He gets Cloud after killing off his father, who is a famous blacksmith, and Wind after defeating his father, Nie Ren Wang (Alex Fong Chong Suern) in a battle. These two boys are brought up by Conquer and the movie speeds to ten years later. Wind grows up righteous and good while Cloud is cold and ruthless. As the battle with the legendary Sword Saint draws near, Conquer sends Wind to find the Mud Buddha who can open a locked box given to him ten years ago that he was never able to open. It is said that the rest of his prophecy lies inside the box.

Cloud is sent to Mo Suern (Without Equal) City to acquire the Without Equal Sword, and he does so after slaughtering quite a few people. Meanwhile, Conquer finds out the rest of his fate which reads that the cause of his destruction will be his same two disciples, Wind and Cloud. Knowing that both have feelings for his daughter, Charity (Kristy Yang), Conquer marries her off to Wind to cause a rift between them. During the ceremony, Cloud crashes the party and takes Charity away. Conquer encourages Wind to fight it out with Cloud and during the fight, he accidentally kills his own daughter.

Cloud takes Charity's corpse and escapes. He fights Conquer later, who cripples his left arm. Heavily injured, Cloud is saved by Chor Chor - Muse (Shu Qi) and her father who chops off the Kilin arm to give to Cloud. Meanwhile, Wind finds the Snow Drinking Saber that his father lost at the Cloud Pass Cave, along with the Kilin beast and the special power-endowing fruits. Conquer's plot is soon revealed so Wind and Cloud join forces to defeat him, which ends the movie.

Adaptations can usually go two ways, one is to follow the original source almost completely and keep most intact while the other is to change it but keep the aura of the characters, story, and mood like the source. So it is understandable that the director of SR decided to go the second route since there is no way to fit all the characters and subplots into a 2 hour movie. However, the telling of SR's story was just awkward and it was very hard to understand character motivation behind their actions if one did not also read the comics.

SR seemed to be tailor made for Aaron Kwok, who played the broodingly cold loner, Cloud. He was given the most screen time and it seemed that the plot changed to Cloud's benefit. Aaron Kwok over played his role--he brooded with too much effort, not letting the viewer see the reason or passion in Cloud and why he so desperately hated Conquer. Ekin Cheng as Wind was mediocre, he is always the same wooden actor in all films, though this time, it is likely the scriptwriter's fault in making Wind as your typical good hero. He didn't seem to have much reaction or noteworthy deed in the movie.

One of my biggest gripes with SR is Hung Ti (Charity) played by Kristy Yang. In the comics, Charity, is a maid at Conquer's clan. She married Tuern Suern - Frost (Michael Tse Tin Wah) under Conquer's orders and had an ongoing affair with Cloud. She is a pitiful girl who was used by Conquer to separate his 3 disciples and was never allowed to make a single choice in her life. She died blocking a blow for Wind and just before her death, when everyone thought she was going to name Cloud as her true love, she claimed to love Wind. Wind, however, had always treated her as his sister. In SR, it was said that producers wanted to make Charity into a more naive and childish girl who, because no one was ever there to teach her the theory of one woman one man, holds the belief that she can have two lovers. So I was screaming "S-L-U-T" when she was dancing around and wanting both Wind and Cloud. Why destroy a perfectly poor character like Hung Ti? Producers don't want to ruin Kristy's image by making her the adultress or Aaron's image by making him the adulterer?

The other female main cast is Shu Qi who played Chor Chor - Muse. Shu Qi seems to be playing the same person in every single movie she is in. She is again the cutesy girl with the bad Cantonese accent who has a crush on the main character. Shu Qi turned Chor Chor into--Shu Qi!

Michael Tse's Frost was not notable because his character just stands around in the movie. You see a bit of disappointment as he sees Hung Ti marrying Wind, but other than that, his role is not too significant.

Sonny Chiba really exudes Hong Ba - Conquer, for he looks a bit like the comic character in the costume and makeup.

Movie vs. Comic:
-The character of Duan Long is completely removed from the movie. Duan Long is the son of the Southern Kilin Swordmaster and the childhood friend of Lip Fung who later betrays him for his own ambitions.

-Lip Fung did not get blinded in the right eye. During a battle with Conquer, Lip Fung saves Bo Ging Wan from a blow and gets blinded. He wears a patch throughout the rest of the story, except for parts where he turned semi-evil. I guess Ekin didn't want to wear an eye patch. What I find interesting is that I think the Taiwanese TV series on Storm Riders is also taking this detail out.

-Bo Ging Wan, instead of Lip Fung, slays Dok Gu Yut Fong. Producers basically take out all parts about Wind's inherited Crazy Blood, his sudden madness, and make Wind a normal good guy (yawn).

-Mo Ming and Keem Sun do not appear at all.

-Bo Ging Wan and Lip Fung defeat Conquer at the end in the movie. It is your average kung-fu flick where the hero(s) have to avenge his parents or loved ones and defeats the villain at the end. In the comics, Conquer had taken Frost hostage beforehand. After he lost the big battle with Wind and Cloud, Wind hesitates to kill Conquer for Frost's safety, letting him escape. Conquer, injured and hunted by all his enemies, seeks Mo Ming to help him. Mo Ming only agrees to help him after he wiped out all his martial arts. Cloud, however, was still full of hatred and continued to seek Conquer for revenge and eventually found out his hiding place. Encouraged by Por Guan, he charges up to kill Conquer. However, Keem Sun who was hiding, knocks a missile at Conquer's daughter, Yal Yuerk, causing her to die under Cloud's blade. Seeing that his daughter died, Conquer throws himself at Cloud's sword, killing himself. In that instance, Cloud did not feel a single bit of pleasure that his arch rival has died and instead, finally understood that a spiral of revenge is never-ending.

I thought that was one of the most powerful scenes in the comic book. Why the heck SR chickened out and did not keep it intact was a big mistake. Because the producer has turned SR into a cliched kung-fu plot by making good guy defeat bad guy, end of story.

End notes:
HK movies with actors or actresses in the series as a main character usually reserve a part of the movie for an MTV sequence from their latest CD album. SR is also not spared as Aaron Kwok and Ekin Cheng both advertise their songs in the movie. There are also rumors that Storm Riders part II is in the making but Aaron Kwok will not be playing Bo Ging Wan again. Andy Lau Duk Wah might be a prospect to play Mo Ming.

It was said that Ekin Cheng is a fan of the Tin Ha comics and had suggested the idea of turning it into a movie in the past but because he was not as popular back then, the idea did not carry too much impact.

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