The colloquial Chinese term for “over the top” is kuazhang (夸张). The term is also the best and worst aspect of this Dynasty Warriors live-action adaptation.
Dynasty Warriors (真·三國無雙) Synopsis
Adapted from Koei Tecmo’s popular hack and slash video game series, Dynasty Warriors depicts the rise of Warlord Liu Bei and his sworn brothers. In the final days of the Eastern Han Dynasty, China is besieged by internal conflict, with the child emperor and imperial court dominated by the unscrupulous Dong Zhuo. Seizing the day, Liu Bei and fellow warlord Cao Cao join an alliance to expel Dong Zhuo from the capital. However, to succeed, they must first defeat Lu Bu, Dong Zhuo’s strongest general. As legend goes, Lu Bu is the strongest warrior in China. He also wields the Fangtian Huaji halberd, an immensely powerful weapon imbued with the power of lightning.
I begin with two declarations. I’m neither a fan of Three Kingdoms history nor a player of the Dynasty Warriors games.
For the latter, it’s entirely because I dislike the signature over-the-top action. For that matter, the otherworldly depiction of folkloric weapons and heroes too. As thrilling as these might be for some players, I always find them bizarre and unappealing.
Too crazy, in other words. This, doubly so when I compare the games to the more mundane TV or movie depictions of Three Kingdoms history.
In the same way, this live-action adaptation of the games felt weird and overboard. As much as I remind myself that’s it’s doing homage to the source material, as accustomed as I am to Wuxia superhuman antics, it is just too uncanny for me. It’s one thing to play a digital Guan Yu capable of decimating an army. It’s another thing to watch an actual actor do that.
It’s silly to say aloud, I know. To be fair, the combat sequences in this movie aren’t more otherworldly than what you get in your typical MCU episode. Awkward as the CGI is, I wouldn’t say they are downright awful too.
Perhaps it’s just my expectations of how historical Three Kingdoms characters should be depicted. (I venerate Guan Yu. I’m also named after another character) Or perhaps it’s because the visual direction in this show is often haphazard. There just isn’t that visual cohesion and buildup to invoke real exhilaration.
In other words, this is strictly for diehard fans of the games, IMO. You can still watch it for the panoramic shots or actors. But doing so will likely make you go, huh, very often.
Check out my other snappy movie reviews.
Read my other Asian Movie Features.