House of Heat-Seeking Daggers

My brother and I saw House of Flying Daggers at Indooroopilly yesterday. There’s no question that the film was beautifully photographed. Colour played an important role in the movie; the characters tended to ride around on horses quite a bit, and I think the colours of the leaves on the ground and the colours of the tree trunks were supposed to help you figure out where and how far separated the characters were at any given time. Some of the scenes were obviously quite painstakingly composed, perhaps even pretentiously so. Still, the cinematography was among the best I’ve seen in any movie.

However, something was missing from this film, and I think it might well have been the plot. Granted, the writers tried to use twists and surprises to keep the story interesting, but these twists were verging on the ridiculous. It was too easy to come to the conclusion that these plot devices were used for their own sake rather than because they added something significant to the movie. Furthermore, one particular turn in the plot seemed to render one of the more beautiful scenes earlier in the movie completely irrelevant.

Another disappointment was the use of fantasy martial arts of a kind whose execution had not progressed any further than preceding movies of the same genre, notably Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero. It was amusing to see the speed with which the soldiers were able to craft sharp stakes out of the bamboo trees through which they were simultaneously running/flying. Moreover, in these kinds of films, the audience can be expected to suspend disbelief only so far. The mark was well and truly overstepped when the flying daggers began to take on heat-seeking or laser-guided properties of which Raytheon would be proud.

The acting was not too bad. Zhang Ziyi, who co-starred in Crouching Tiger and appeared in Hero did a convincing job as a blind assassin. However, she was less convincing in the romantic sub-plot. But perhaps that, again, was the fault of the writers: the characters were soulless.

There was so much wrong with this movie, and yet, it was so incredibly beautiful that one can almost forgive its shortcomings.