I saw the movie 'Hero' last night. It is a stunning film, as beautiful as any you will see. There is a highly controlled visual style to the movie, and it makes the movie watchable. If I had one complaint about the cinematographic aspect of this movie, it is that sometimes it seems a bit too controlled. Like someone is saying "Look what I can do, ma!"
The story seemed a bit wooden to me, although that may be because I'm not as fluent in some Chinese archetypes, and therefore the story was a bit too stoic for me: As if Spock was telling the story of the founding of his civilization. It tells the story of Nameless, played by Jet Li, who is brought before the emperor, heralded for his exploits in dispatching of the three most dangerous assassins who daily threaten the emperor's life. The King is eager to hear how this unknown warrior could possibly have done what all his palace guards have never been able to do.
This is where the story begins, as Nameless recounts for the King his exploits. As the conversation goes on, different points of view of the same story are told, with ever altering details. It becomes apparent that, in the telling, this is how legends are born. The stories change slightly, and the characters take on inhuman proportions. This story becomes the tale of the beginning of the China, but it is a mythological, legendary version of the story.
I loved the use of color in the different stories, each color themed to give the viewer subtle insight into the veracity of each particular story. When the enemy is dressed in red, for instance, it is easy to view them as bloodthirsty and brutal, but when they are in blue, their demeanor changes.
These stunning visuals make for a work of art that drifts in front of your eyes. It doesn't have the effortlessness of 'Crouching Tiger,' or the well-drawn characters of 'Rashomon,' but it is a good companion to the two.