In 370 B.C, China was separated as seven nations and several other small tribes, one of these being the city state of Liang. The nation of Zhao is led by the terrifying prime commander Xiang Yangzhong who orders his troops to launch an attack on Liang in a bid to conquer the small city. Leaping to the defense of the cowed people of Liang is a warrior who goes by the name of 'Ge Li' from the Mo-Tsu school of thought, renowned for its defensive skills, respect for simplicity and peace, and belief in universal love. He is their last hope as the terrors of Yangzhong's troops are unleashed. The future of Liang now hangs in the balance, with all their hopes pinned on the mysterious Mo-Tsu warrior Ge Li...
Story centers on a battle during China's Warring States Period, a series of civil wars, which spanned from the 5th to the 3rd century B.C. Based on a popular Japanese manga, which was in turn based a Japanese novel inspired by Warring States history in China.
I expected "a battle of wits" a great movie after seeing its introduction and actor lists. I went to movie theater to watch, but it absolutely made me disappointed.
I think director want to descirbe different personality vividly, but there are so many illogical reactions. The unreasonable war is mentioned many times, so I'd to talk about the captain of Zhao, why would he agree to meet Ge Li at the isolated room? Is it the exhibition of brave? NO!! It's totally a stupid decision. A captain is responsible for the safety of armies, how could he put himself a dangerous zone??
And the most ridiculous is soldiers lift the captain and run away...does it makes the episode funny?? I think it can just break the serious atmosphere of the battle, and it's really illogical, how dare are the soldiers to offend their captain? Isn't Zhao's army rule really strict?? Too many questions... The first thing to be gotten "out-of-the-way" when watching "Battle of Wits" is the somewhat dubious production values (camera-work, lighting, editing,etc.), resembling more of a TV-movie than a "Hollywood epic"-- but its story/ material is EXCELLENT! It is essentially an "idea/ issue" movie-- the characterization is one-dimensional and the events just serve as "platforms" for ideas/ issues of Mozi philosophy. And it is this very approach which will annoy some viewers and delight others.
Like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon-- whose success give investors the confidence to finance "Battle of Wits"-- people are going to have problems the "genre-bending" nature of this movie.... Historical "fantasy" film? Philosophical "war" movie? It attempts various "movie" moments-- e.g. the rather obvious CGI sequence of the first full-on assault which, unlike the beautiful but stupid sequence in Hero, shows a "full" army and what each section of the army is doing. Yet it refuses to dwell on gratuitous or "entertaining" imagery.
But thanks to the director, the realistic "mood" set in the movie is enough to make the audience winced even when the gory scenes are NOT shown-- you are taken "into" the warfare where there is a rather disturbingly level of groaning. And the bodies and burials, the defenders are always taking people out of the city for burial.
While some may complain about its "flow" or "completeness" because it is based on a 11-volume Japanese manga (which in turn is based on a Japanese novel), all the events in the movie are "explicable" (even historically "inspired")-- although they are not that well "depicted/ edited"... if only they had better special effects directors and action choreographers (& lots more $).
True to the sign of the times, "Battle of Wits" is:
1) a SNAFU (anti-)war movie. That is "Situation Normal- All F**ked Up"-- or everything which can go wrong will go wrong. The tagline of the movie is "100,000 vs 5,000" I think, so it's not too much of a spoiler to point out that the morale or "spirit" of the defenders is so low that it is always "cracking up". OTOH, the morale or "spirit" of the invaders is so high that they treat it as a game and "crack up" whenever something unexpected happens.
2) a "Casualties of War" movie. Those being the times of "maiming" arrows & fire, rather than "instant-kill" bullets and bombs, everyone who is shot, hurt or dying screams in pain and cries out for help (enslaving rather than killing POW was the rule in those times-- which First Emperor Qin happily ignored). So unlike Hero or even Lord of the The Rings where the arrow volleys are just beautiful to look at, the "realistic" mood set by "Battle of Wits" makes the crossfire "ugly".
3) a "Psych-war" movie.
Throughout the movie, people are always messing around with other people's heads-- even when they are not sure what he is doing (yes, Psych-war involves "lying", err, I mean "propaganda"). So there's a lot of talking (& action) which seems to goes "nowhere" if you don't see psychological significance.
ADVICE: don't be late and don't watch it when you're tired (2 hours 15 mins) because:
i) the narrative pace is almost relentless (it slows down only towards the end), and many things are "explained" with just one line or one shot-- here's hoping someone will invest and make a detailed and better paced TV series out of the source material, or even a sequel
ii) it is definitely NOT made for "international audiences"-- the director does NOT bother to explain the historical, cultural or philosophical background and the minimal budget means that many sequences are very "tightly" edited. But that also explains why the Chinese (Mainland, HK & Taiwan) are loving it (more so than Zhang Yimou's *cough* "epics").
iii) Mozi philosophy is full of controversies (which are not "resolved" in the movie)-- many characters in the movie get struggle with the Mozi philosophy and suffer for it, because practising the Mozi philosophy would require forsaking almost everything else (affection, glory and riches). 646f9e108c
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