Home > Film > Storm Warriors or Fung wan II (2009)

Storm Warriors or Fung wan II (2009)

It’s always interesting to see how cinematic styles are transferred from one film-making culture to another. Over the last few years, we’ve seen Hollywood experimenting with the transfer of comics and graphic novels to the big screen. Perhaps the most interesting of these was Sin City (2005) which substantially reproduced Frank Miller’s story about Basin City by adopting the graphic novel as the shooting script, setting the camera angles, framing and colouration. This was the ultimate homage to one man’s artistic point of view as against the more usual film versions of comic-book heroes which have been essentially cinematic, so epic rather than the smaller scale detail that derives from artwork. A kind of halfway house emerged in Zach Snyder’s original Sucker Punch in which gothic comic books/graphic novels meet electronic gaming tropes in a fascinating mashup of styles, but this may not set a trend given the smaller than expected profit generated by Kick Ass (2010). The problem given the limitless opportunities provided by CGI technology is to provide a coherent style that’s consistent with the needs of the narrative. It’s pointless to decorate the screen with all kinds of images unless they are positively advancing the story. Simply watching beautifully rendered images grows boring quite quickly.

Aaron Kwok blessed with a big sword

 

All of which brings me to Storm Warriors or Fung wan II (2009) which is an adaptation of Fung wan which translates as Wind and Cloud, a comic book series created by Wing-Shing Ma and Siu Kit in Hong Kong. Since the series first appeared in 1989, it has been adapted as a film, The Storm Riders (1998) and as a television series in Taiwan. This second film deals with the story arc of an invasion of China by the Japanese led by Lord Godless (Simon Yam) and his son Heart (Nicholas Tse). This is a simple story. The Japanese capture the Chinese Emperor (Patrick Tam) and coerce him into taking them to the Dragon Tomb where they hope to recover the Dragon Bones representing the root of China. Once they are broken, China is broken. When the Japanese first appear, we are shown that Lord Godless is more or less invincible and he drives off our two heros, Cloud (Aaron Kwok) and Wind (Ekin Cheng). To beat the invaders, Cloud and Wind have to acquire new skills. Wind is taken down the “evil” path by appropriately named Lord Wicked (Tak-Bun Wong) who actually reformed himself by cutting off both his arms so he could do evil no more (a bit drastic but effective). Cloud learns righteous techniques from Nameless (Kenny Ho). The idea is that, if our two heroes can combine the good and evil techniques into a single attack, they will beat Lord Godless. With him out of the way, the ordinary Chinese warriors will be able to throw out the invaders. The problem in this great plan is that it may be possible to bring these two warriors together in the defence of China but, if they are successful, how will Wind be turned back from his evil path?

Ekin Cheng turning pale with evil

 

It all starts so well. The directors Oxide Pang Chun and Danny Pang come up with some really cool cinematography with the help of Decha Srimantra. Between them, they put all the Hollywood tricks on display with angled shots, framed shots with black and white images against coloured backgrounds and vice versa, slow motion, freeze-frames, and so on. It is, in every sense, a visual feast with a nicely gothic feel to the initial confrontation between our heroes and Lord Godless as he’s about to torture all the Chinese exponents who’ve been laid low by poison. Better still, the story starts moving along like a juggernaut as our heroes retreat to regroup and the “evil” Japanese move forward to eliminate the opposition. Indeed, everything is roses in the directorial garden until we come to the defeat of Lord Godless. At this point, the brakes are applied and our unstoppable force grinds to a halt.

 

What has been a classic example of economical storytelling with an interesting visual style becomes a hack, semi-mystical confrontation between good and evil. All the CGI effects suddenly acquire the subtlety of stone axes as back clouds boil off Cloud and bold light flickers around Wind. Their respective love interests try to keep them apart which is not a great success. It’s all eventually resolved, as these things must if people are to be allowed to leave the cinema before their bladders burst, but all momentum is lost and boredom sets in. Frankly, I can’t see any redeeming feature for the last third of this film which is a shame. Perhaps you can arrange to watch only the first part which has more than enough merit to justify your time.

Simon Yam impressive as the invader

 

So there you have it. Storm Warriors or Fung wan II stays reasonably faithful to the comic storyline which will keep the fans happy. The fighting is the usual fantasy-based CGI extravaganza where one hero waves a sword suggestively and hacks chunks off a stone cliff fifty yards away, taking down all enemy warriors that happen to be in the way. It’s all good clean fun at the beginning, but there’s little or no attempt to establish any real characters for us to identify with. The people on the screen do stuff, have stuff happen to them, and then it ends without us caring a great deal about those who live or die. So if you enjoy spectacle, there’s plenty of that. If you want a plot with three-dimensional characters, look elsewhere.

 

Other films directed by Danny or Oxide Pang:
Forest of Death or Sum yeun (2007)
Sleepwalker or Meng you (2011)

 

Other films by Nicholas Tse:
The Beast Stalker or Ching Yan (2008)
The Bullet Vanishes or Xiao shi de zi dan (2012)
Treasure Inn or Cai Shen Ke Zhan (2011)

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