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Film: The Storm Warriors

Written by Marcus Campbell on December 15, 2009

The Storm Warriors
Directed by the Pang Brothers
Starring Aaron Kwok, Ekin Cheng and Simon Yam

The Storm Warriors is the debut Australian film of Cine Asia, a distributor that aims to release Asian films on our shores at the same time as their domestic premieres. It is fitting that they have begun with a big-budget CGI blockbuster such as this, its stunning special effects and beautiful visuals deserve a big screen viewing. Is this a sign that mainland China has begun fighting back against Hollywood in its own turf? Probably not, as this isn’t a culturally neutral co-production such as Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon or Hero. This is a film by Chinese, for Chinese as has been the focus of the country for years, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting.

With a very typical story in the traditional wuxia / Chinese martial arts tradition, The Storm Warriors often gets lost in its own strangeness but the constant fight scenes keep minds from wondering too far. The story goes like this (try to stay with me); the evil warrior Lord Godless is on the warpath to conquer China. He captures the good-hearted warriors Wispering Wind and Striding Cloud (Aaron Kwok and Ekin Cheng) along with Nameless, a martial arts legend. The three escape but Nameless is gravely injured so the responsibility of punishing evil is passed to the unqualified pair of Wind and Cloud. To become strong enough to defeat Lord Godless they go to seek guidance from an ancient martial arts master Lord Wicked who advises Wind to turn half-evil because he is somehow more powerful harnessing the influence of both ends of the moral spectrum…Anyway, throw in a few strange and rushed love stories and a series of impressive martial arts exercises and that sums up most of the screen time.

The CGI is the real star of this film. Each warrior has powers which are characteristic of their station and when used are devastating to anything that isn’t wielding similar abilities. Nameless levitates thousands of swords in a beautiful display of his power early in the film and half-evil Wind is assisted by all manner of ungodly CGI devices after his turning. As The Storm Warriors was based on a graphic novel, the style that has been used extensively in films like 300 and Sin City is borrowed for many scenes especially when Lord Godless sends his men to massacre all the martial arts schools throughout China. The frame switches between action and long pauses to exemplify the blood splatters and emotional fury you would find in comic books.

It is great to see that Asian cinema is being given a greater platform to be appreciated in this country and while the particular recipe of this Pang Bros film might not be to everyone’s taste, it is great eye candy for anyone and everyone who has the patience that Hollywood doesn’t really allow. It might not be a classic but the fight scenes are spectacular and unyielding and the visual garnishing is as good as anything coming from across the pacific. Go and see The Storm Warriors if you like your wuxia traditional, your martial arts pretty and your screen big.

You will love this if: You enjoy unpacking the ultra-nationalistic sentiments of mainland Chinese films and laughing about them with your friends.

You will hate this if: You regard narrative cohesion as essential and you don’t think martial arts and CGI go really great together.

The Storm Warriors is showing from December 10 in selected cinemas in Sydney and Melbourne

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