Jianghu comes alive again in "Flying Swords of Dragon Gate". [Photo: mtime.com]
The long-anticipated 3D wuxia thriller "Flying Swords of Dragon Gate" (Long Men Fei Jia), directed by Tsui Hark and starring Jet Li, Zhou Xun and Chen Kun, will be released in theaters later on Thursday.
Following Monday's premiere, the film has received critical acclaim for its skillful use of 3D techniques and dazzling martial arts scenes, setting the stage for the action flick to win a positive public reception.
"We wanted the movie to deliver a 3D experience that differed from that of Western movies," director Tsui said. He revealed that out of the movie's total $35 million budget, a quarter was devoted to creating its 3D effects.
And now it seems that Tsui's vision and the film's large tech budget will finally pay off.
"The movie will definitely set a standard for future Chinese 3D movies," said Ma Sheng, an independent film critic. "Its visual effects are impeccable."
Wei Haijun, another critic who writes film reviews for 40 media companies, also spoke very highly of the movie.
"Not only will it be a milestone for Chinese films, I think it will even stand out on the international stage," he commented.
The film, which began shooting last year, is based on the story of "New Dragon Gate Inn", a 1992 Hong Kong wuxia film directed by Raymond Lee and produced by Tsui Hark. But Tsui indicated that the new film isn't so much a remake of the old classic as it is a "re-imagining."
"New Dragon Gate Inn" is set during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) in a remote desert region of China. The film has come to be regarded as a standard for Chinese wuxia movies, beloved for its fast-paced martial arts scenes, sword fighting and black comedy.
Although "Flying Swords of Dragon Gate" is based on the iconic "New Dragon Gate Inn", Tsui wanted to ensure originality in the new story while presenting the same characteristic morality and code of honor of those chivalrous men and women from the world of jianghu.
Although Monday's premiere has drawn generous approval, the critics are not unanimous. Some have pointed out flaws in the movie's 3D effects. In answer to this, Tsui Hark said the new movie is merely a knock on the door of innovation, a door that will lead China to new arenas in the film industry.
Indeed, combining 3D and Chinese martial arts is certainly a new and difficult challenge to filmmakers. Last year, True Legend, promoted as the first Chinese 3D wuxia movie, directed by Yuan Heping, was poorly received due to disappointing, lackluster 3D effects, resulting in the film's early retreat from cinemas.
Since the film began shooting, Tsui Hark has been determined to make the best 3D wuxia movie audiences have ever seen.
Because domestic 3D technology isn't yet mature, Tsui invited Hollywood expert Chuck Comisky, who oversaw the visual effects for James Cameron's "Avatar", to manage the film's special effects and train his technical team.
"Applying 3D technology to the genre of wuxia films is like injecting new life into traditional Chinese martial arts," said Jet Li, a top Chinese martial artist and leading actor in the movie.
The star expects that the movie's success will help broaden worldwide appreciation for Chinese wuxia films.
Another blockbuster hopeful, director Zhang Yimou's red-hot "Flowers of War", is also being released in theaters on Thursday.
When asked about the competition between the two movies, Tsui said he hopes that both films do well at the box office, noting that foretelling ticket sales is not within a director's powers.
"What I can do is shoot a good movie," he added.
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