Friday, August 7, 2009

Dragon Tiger Gate

Ok I just saw this movie and I wanted to talk about it.

These are the things I lied about the movie;

The action is great. Donnie Yen does an awesome job with the fight choreography and the wire work in most sequences look good. Except for a few instances where it looks clumsy, but I have yet to see a martial arts movie that doesn't overdo the wire work.

There are little details for the fanboys of Oriental Heroes that they put into the movie. One of my favorites is the Gang of Four having face time- Baldy, One-Eyed Draco, 4-Eyed Ming, and Heartbreak Kid. Tony Wong even has a cameo in the movie. I was looking for Guy but unfortunately he wasn't in there.

The actors do a great job bringing these characters to life. NIcholas Tse plays Tiger Wong, Donnie Yen plays Dragon Wong, and Shawn Yue plays Turbo Shek (or Gold Dragon).

I was really impressed at Nicholas Tse's performance as Tiger Wong. He really brought the spirit of what makes Tiger Wong unique in the comics to the movie.

Shawn Yue really played up the likability and playfulness I remember from Gold Dragons character or Turbo Shek. I even heard that both he and Nicholas weren't true martial artists at the time but were trained by Donnie Yen for this movie. I wouldn't know the difference if not for the commentary.

And Donnie Yen plays Dragon Wong. I have nothing to compare that to so I really wouldn't know from a comics perspective if it's acurate or not but he really takes over the movie as the main character, I'll get to this later.

This is what I didn't like.

The story was, well? not badly written but they could have done better.

First of all they're making a movie that has created a huge fanbase from the comics and they should have given the audience what they wanted. The main characters of the comics are Tiger Wong and Gold Dragon. Here they put the emphasis on Dragon Wong, a character who dies early on in the series. The plus side to this is that now that they've got this out the gate it's a perfect set up for a sequel which I hope they'll make and this time get it right. This is what I'd do. I'd hire Donnie Yen as the choreographer and give him a cameo in the beginning as he dies setting up the story for Tiger Wong and Gold Dragon to take down the Lousha Gang (Global Cult). He could have the gnarliest death scene ever. This would bring out the acting chops for Nicholas Tse and Shawn Yue.

The next thing I didn't like was the writting didn't do much for the climax and conclusion of the story. It doesn't do a good job of building up their bad guys. There's a disconnect when Shibumi shows up. He's not developed enough. They give too much time to Tiger and Dragon Wongs relationship. They should have invested more time into making Shibumi dispicable and vial so when the ending battle takes place the audience wants him to be beaten.

The story starts off great with 2 back to back action scenes that rock, but after that the story kind of stalls in places. It gets choppy and the pacing suffers because of it. There's a long draggy area between the beginning and the ending with some cool things in between, but I think they could have paced it better just for balance. I think it's an asian thing but the emotional scenes are really heavy handed. I know it's the same for American movies as well and they serve to connect us to the characters, but here there's just way too many flashback scenes for Tiger and Dragon Wong. Then there's some flashback scenes with Dragon Wong and his girlfriend when they're young too. I see no reason why they had to do that, Dragon has so much screen time and Donnie Yen (to me) does so much with so little. His expressions, his mannerisms suggest so much more than bares saying. Being that he's a martial arts actor I usually don't take him for a serious actor but here he does a great job conveying things without saying them.

There's really no reason to care for ( or remember) the story. I mean there's the whole plaque deal, the gangs and anyone who knows anything about the comics will know that the gangs play a huge role in the story, and then the Gate. But the main point to the story is weakened because Dragon clearly looks and feels out of place in the gangs, so does Kun and his daughter. Here you have 3 good people on the wrong side of the fence. They're given a plaque to continue working with the Lousha Gang who's the top mafia style gang. Our heroes take the plaque, Dragon gets it back and Kun gives the plaque back to the Lousha Gang after having a change of heart. Why the hell is this interesting to us? Who cares just get to the fighting.

With that said though, this story is probably a hundred times better than the comics that would introduce new characters just because and they'd fight on and on and on with no resolution for long periods of time. I wonder if Tiger Wong and Chan Ou Wan ever fight, Does he get his revenge? Or is it like the rabbit and Lucky Charms- if we give him what he wants there's no reason to keep going on with the story. I don't know the American version Oriental Heroes cuts off at issue 55 and just leaves us hanging.

I still loved it. Tiger Wong and Gold Dragon on the big screen with todays technology and level of development. If you're a fan of the series you gotta watch it. Or if you're a kung fu movie fan it's a decent movie. Hopefully the creators will make a sequel that will give the fans who have been faithful to the books what they want- Tiger Wong and Gold Dragon front and center. Bring in Guy, White Sect, Red Sect- Jaws, Red Whale, Fiery Fox, Skeleton Secretary, and Chan Ou Wan and we're in business.