The stunning scenes can make me forgive the patriotism and ideology it carries. It starts by saying that the Qin ruler was ruthless and then becomes apologetics of the unification of the seven kingdoms that became China. The premise of the narrative works quite well. Each point of vue has a different color, and the story is retold and recreated visually with great cinematography. The soundtrack works perfectly.
It's like the anti-Star Wars. Group of motivated rebels fight evil, well-equipped empire only to realize that the force they're fighting is the world's best hope for stability and peace. A little dubious considering this was co-produced by the largest state-run distributor in China. Nevertheless, HERO is filled with wonderful, balletic fights and stirring photography of China's diverse geography.
A digitally-enhanced visual spectacle, this is the film that probably landed director Zhang Yimou the gig of directing the Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It can best be compared to a comic bo... um, 'graphic novel'; it wouldn't lose much if the scenes were converted to panels and the dialogue into bubbles. Beautiful to look at, difficult to believe, and ultimately too worshipful of absolute power.
The only thing that really stands out about this film is the exceptional visuals. Some of these shots are just undeniably beautiful. On the other hand, the action scenes really left me disappointed. What starts out as impressive or poetic quickly turns into a CGI assisted bore of continually trying to top itself in each hopelessly impossible technique. With a weak story to match, it really falls short for me.
The greatest impression this film left on me from when I saw this 14 years ago (wow) was the incredible flying effect of the fight scenes. Still my favorite aspect of the film... the scene where they fight on water, just barely touching the surface, is mind-blowingly gorgeous. Eye candy the entire film.
What a stunner of a movie...! First time have I ever teared up with a martial arts scene - its colors, choreography, camera angles and motion, as well as the participant element of surrounding nature. Just speaks volumes in terms of the difference between executing something well and executing something with eloquence. This movie nailed it.