View Full Version : Hero - Lavish But Irritating

08-28-2004, 01:11 AM
This Chinese mythical story of China becoming one country is shot lavishly with great scenery, great colorful moments of fantastical images, and great magnificant sound effects. The storyline is powerful for American tastes and it definitely captures an often used plotline that my wife says that she's seen over and over again and again in Asian samurai movies to the point of tedium. The special effects seem out of place for this movie as it tries to balance realism with fantasy and the line isn't well marked. Dancing on water seems more of a irritating illusion than a solid depiction of more authentic and well-received Japanese samurai movies. I enjoyed the twists and turns, the emotional intensity and sacrifice capture in this film. However, it is more disjointed than I could continually enjoy and believe in even with its mythic eastern slant to the Medieval King Arthur and Merlin's Excalibur legend.

08-30-2004, 09:59 PM
Hero opened this weekend with $18 million at the box office topping all other releases. It now also has the distinction of being the highest grossing opener for a foreign - foreign language film ('The Passion of the Christ' is only a foreign language film). This probably only adds to the embarrassment Miramax must be facing, Miramax's COO Rick Sands recently stated that " "We were hopeful, but I have to admit, it did open better than we anticipated," Sands also noted that "if anything, the limited DVD exposure in North America only aided the opening as the film is a visual spectacle best seen on the big screen." I wonder why then they attempted to bankcrupt the sellers selling the dvd's earlier. It's laughable.

09-02-2004, 07:20 PM
Here's Harvey defending Miramax's record on asian releases.

from variety via yahoo,


Here's a well written response from Mark Pollard, editor of Kungfu Cinema.


oscar jubis
09-02-2004, 09:03 PM
Harvey is a greedy bastard. Pollard's piece is too mild.

09-03-2004, 01:44 PM
I've held out on seeing Hero because Jet Li annoys me. He's got a giant ego.

But Yimou is a director I respect because he says things like "Films are about emotions" and "Visual impact must be intense. Control it with your cinematography".

Tarantino's name helps get it seen, but "Quentin Tarantino Presents" is very misleading.

oscar jubis
09-03-2004, 02:25 PM
Jet Li annoys you because he has a giant ego and may keep you from seeing one of the best films of the year. But Mr. Gallo is a genius because ??? and you can't wait to watch the new movie with the 10 minute-blowjob and lots of empty rambling. Once in a while J, we just don't see eye-to-eye.

09-03-2004, 02:31 PM
I'm not looking forward to the BJ- (I'll probably be lowering my head during the head), but Gallo fascinates me.

He's a total oddball and I'm very curious about this film.

Buffalo 66 had an honesty that permeated every frame, and I suspect that "Bunny" will have the same.
(Despite the filmic fellatio)

Gallo's ego is mammoth but he appeals to me. I can't explain it.

oscar jubis
09-03-2004, 02:53 PM
I liked most of Buffalo '66 myself, especially the dinner scene with Gazzara and Huston, and Ricci's perf. I've also read that the new cut of Bunny makes it better than the film shown at Cannes. I'm not against explicit sex scenes, but I'm concerned about the blowjob scene as an expression of one artist's domination/humiliation of another.
BTW, I'm irritated by Tabuno calling Hero "irritating" right on the thread title. Apparently it has something to do with the film being "disjointed", you know....flashbacks and more than a single point of view of events; makes it oh so...complicated. Might as well turn it into a thread about something else.

09-03-2004, 03:03 PM
The trailer for Hero is damn impressive, and I will see the movie.

I said I've "held out" on seeing it. Jet Li actually looks like he's keeping his ego in check for this flick, and Yimou is a hell of a filmmaker. Red Sorghum is one of my favorites.

09-03-2004, 03:48 PM
Tarantino deserves much credit for the way the film is being promoted/released as Harvey pointed out himself in the article above. Miramax did want to have it slightly cut but Tarantino said NO.

oscar jubis
09-03-2004, 03:53 PM
Let's give'im a fucking Congressional Medal of Honor!

Chris Knipp
09-04-2004, 04:16 AM
Though this thread is wobbling around a bit in the direction of other current thills, i.e. Brown Bunny, my other Hero thread is rendered somewhat irrelevant by the discussion here, so I'll put here the salient point from Rosenbaum re: Hero which I put in the other Hero thread.

I'd also like to call your attention to a new thread started off by jiankevin on IMDb by pasting in Weinstein's self-congratulatory statement, resulting in some pungent replies from contributors -- particularly one by burrobuggy that goes like this:

His 'restored' versions are always cut, dubbed into English and have new synth scores on them. And what's worse, they become the only way you can see great flicks like Fist of Legend in the English-speaking world (tho thankfully the original uncut, undubbed Iron Monkey is available in the UK and Holland). He doesn't mention that he's been trying to re-edit Hero in chronological order (huh?) for the past year because he didn't think US audiences were smart enough to get it - it was only when Tarantino put pressure and his name on the poster that he relented (I'm no fan of QT, but kudos to him for that). Among Hong Kong film fans, Harvey Weinstein is the anti-Christ. That said, he's an equal opportunities slasher - Harvey Scissorhands has a rep for shelving great movies from all countries for a year or more while he re-edits and ruins them.
The thread itself begins here: http://www.imdb.com/board/bd0000010/thread/11480713?d=11480713#11480713.

Here's the quotation from my other FilmWurld Hero thread:

Early this year Rosenbaum had written the following in his roundup of 2003's year's best:

I suspect that the most meaningful film watching in this country in 2003 was done at home, by viewers who went out of their way to select videos and DVDs from a much wider pool than the latest releases. Only people who made a comparable effort saw some of the lower-profile items on my ten-best list. Of course many people were still expected to show up at the official trough, where they were fed whatever the industry had selected for them. There is one sign that the studios are a little worried that audiences aren't being as docile as they would like: Miramax and its parent company Disney are now just as aggressive about preventing our seeing some movies as in pushing others. It's estimated that Miramax owns the North American rights to at least 56 contemporary Asian films, only 21 of which it's bothered to release in any form, usually after recutting or otherwise altering them. When a Web site that doesn't sell movies, Kung Fu Cinema, recently provided links to sites where Americans and Canadians could order Zhang Yimou's Hero from overseas, Miramax slapped it with a cease and desist order. Apparently one shouldn't even think of seeing movies the company doesn't want to release. Fans of Asian films -- like the extremely popular Shaolin Soccer, which Miramax bought the rights to a couple of years ago and has sat on ever since -- are understandably livid.

Chris Knipp
09-04-2004, 04:21 AM
Giving a viewpoint on how the average moviegoer may be confused by Hero's current presentation here again is the Yahoo Movies viewer's comment (which will be found here: http://movies.yahoo.com/shop?d=hv&cf=info&id=1808404384) for what it has to say about the date and orgins of the film and the way it's been promoted in the US:

alright, lets get the facts straight
by neville1312
Aug 27, 2004
386 of 417 people found this review helpful . . .

First of all, there's a huge misconception about this film. Hero is not a Quentin Tarantino film, he simply brought it to the United States audience. It was filmed over two years ago across seas. I personally went out and bought it on dvd in 2002 and watched the subtitled version. And I found it to be spectacular. You're led to believe it's a nonstop breath-taking action film, when in reality it's a bit of a mystery. I am not satisfied at all with how the trailer that Hollywood has created for this movie, you're almost told too much and far too much misled. I still suggest people go see this movie in theatres, even if they think it's some new cutting edge Tarantino action flick. I think if anything, people should take this movie as a wake up call. They should take it as a notice to the fact that there is a whole world of great foreign cinema out there. And rather than stay couped up and isolated in their own hollywood realm, it is a good idea to go out and explore all the great cinema the world has to offer. I think they'll find that although language may be a barrier at times, great films still come across well to all audiences.

09-06-2004, 01:52 AM
I'm a little bit confused: did Miramax end up cutting any of this film for American distribution? I think I've read conflicting accounts on this issue.

It's a remarkable film, particularly on the big screen. I hope they didn't trim it down to make it more palatable for our consumption.

Chris Knipp
09-06-2004, 02:03 PM
As you know, Harvey definitely wanted to trim it; it was Tarantino's intervention that got the film released in this country now and trimmed back the trimming. This is discussed on many sites. But as you suggest, reports vary. Here's one:
Rumor has it that Miramax wanted to trim 20 minutes from the film, but finally agreed to leave it uncut in exchange for Tarantino's promotional support, including the "Quentin Tarantino Presents" tag.

And here's another:

Though director Zhang Yimou was forced to cede to Harvey Weinstein's demand to trim Hero to less than 100 minutes (the director's preferred cut runs 108 minutes), Hero remains a genre masterpiece by a great filmmaker.http://www.celebritywonder.com/movie/2004_Hero108.html

Another site (http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/display.article?id=4370) says he wanted to trim it by 18 minutes. This piece may interest you ("Why Does Hollywood Dominate US Cinemas?"). Miramax Miramax, "after acquiring the rights to U.S. distribution of Hero (a huge hit in China), reportedly wanted to trim from the film some elements considered too Eastern for American audiences." (http://www.worldmag.com/newsite/content/displayArticle.cfm?ID=9631).

Precise data on whether anything was trimmed doesn't seem forthcoming yet. Somebody ask Tarantino: He'd know. But why was this even an issue? There's one simple answer: Harvey Weinstein.

09-06-2004, 04:41 PM
People who own the older asian dvd release of this film and saw the film theatrically have notified me that only some words in the subtitles are altered to have the american audiences better understand the meaning of what's being said. Although the new asian dvd release has reportedly some extra 10 minutes added on.

09-06-2004, 05:33 PM
After a bit more research most people agree that the 98 min and the 108 min versions are virtually the same, the longer version doesn't add anything to our understanding, some fight scenes are longer especially the one between Jet Li and Tony Leung.

09-06-2004, 05:56 PM
Thanks for the info and the links. Here's another article I found in NYT, interview with the director. He's saying that Miramax, in funding nearly 2/3 of the cost, "encouraged" him to trim it 20 minutes. Not sure if that was done at the early stages (i.e. script, casting stage) or later at editing stage.

<Still, Mr. Zhang said he kept Western audiences in mind while making the film because he knew he would not be able to recoup the production costs through Chinese ticket sales alone.

"I tried to get across themes that would be understood by a Western audience," he said. "There are elements that are purely Chinese, but I made an effort to keep a balance between the two."

Miramax was one of his biggest backers, covering nearly two-thirds of the film's $30 million cost. On Miramax's advice, he cut 20 minutes to speed the pace and make it more palatable for American audiences.

"America is a big market, and I wanted it to succeed, so I agreed," Mr. Zhang said. The uncut version was released in China on DVD.>

09-06-2004, 07:52 PM
That kinda bugs me. I believe the best films are made without the audience in mind. To alter themes in a film based on the fact that western areas would be viewing seems silly.

Chris Knipp
09-07-2004, 12:05 AM
These are all very important issues. Hero is certainly designed as a far more mainstream movie than many of the works by Asian directors we talk about on this site, hence it is not at all surprising that he thought of the western audience. It's also true that in martial arts movies there is a lot of East-West fusion going on; that's just the mood of the times. I just saw the film and I found it very abstract and generalized, sanitized, almost,you could say, but also surpassingly beautiful, of course, sort of the martial arts epic distilled to its very essence, with color coordination, with a sense of sublime purity. I missed the dirt and confusion of Wong's Ashes of Time, the pungent dialogue and surprise twists of Kill Bill. I would say if you're a film buff, especially an Asian film buff, above all a martial arts film buff, Hero is an absolute must. You may indeed want to see it five times, study its sequences, savour its dialogue and its arguments. But in this distillation there has been a loss of any touch of reality. People are killed and they hardly bleed: there's just a tiny puddle of blood at their feet, and the lover sheds one big tear. It's epic poetry without the blood and guts of Homer.

The issue with Harvey Weinstein may be more complex that it is sometimes represented as being. If you're going to make a movie that costs many tens of millions of dollars, you're going to have to have backing, and you're going to have to meet some requirements of y our investors. Since essentially the movie wouldn't have been made, it appears now, without Miramax funding, Harvey's wanting to cut a few minutes emerges as not so arbitrary as some have implied. His damage may be far greater in the case of very small films, where the intrusion or the shelving aren't justified by financial support.

I hope this doesn't make me look like an apologist for Harvey Weinstein, which is certainly not the case.

11-15-2004, 09:09 PM
Originally posted by tabuno
Dancing on water seems more of a irritating illusion than a solid depiction of more authentic and well-received Japanese samurai movies.

Hi tabuno,

I just want to share this with you and your wife. ;)

The "dancing on water" is actually one of the martial arts skills (or level) that is quite prevalent in Chinese martial arts books.

Its more elegant name is known as "Qing Ting Dian Shui" (translated as "Grasshopper skimming the water"). You see, Chinese like to believe if the grasshopper can do such a thing, they might be able to attain that "martial arts skills" some day ... hee hee ...

As writers of martial arts books try to use their imagination, this is one of the skills that many Chinese has come to accept. Hee hee ...

Likewise, the skill of "walking on walls and roofs" (quite often seen in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon". That is known as "Fei Yan Zou Bi" (translated as Flying from Roofs and Walking on Walls).

11-15-2004, 11:17 PM
Somehow, I would imagine that an animated version of this movie would have been more well-received than its live-action version in regards to myth and magic. Somehow if this were a great movie, the mythic notion of dancing on water would not have emerged in my mind as an irritant - however, the set up in this movie, the mix between reality and myth isn't clearly made for me so my expectations of this movie is more grounded in reality (Western). It would be interesting to think how much cultural prejudice and historical mythologically ignorance might play a role in how this movie is seen and evaluated.

Chris Knipp
11-18-2004, 02:48 PM
Interesting comment and lore from hengcs.

Whether you understand the conventions of a culture or not doesn't always matter; you just have to accept them, especially when the culture is a remote one from yours. As we've been saying in this discussion, the western and esp. US audiences have become more and more conditioned to understand and appreciate martial arts movies of the most elaborate and flowery kind. Like Crouching Tiger, Hero is not unusual in its content for the genre, but it's presented in a particularly beautiful and palatable form suitable for the western audience. I don't think it has to be translated into or reduced to an animation. You could not capture the magic of Maggie Cheung with little digital drawings. Beautiful flesh and blood, real flowing diaphonous robes, thousands of tiny leaves floating in the air--these are things the most advanced animation techniques will never really duplicate, though to be sure, digitalization plays a role in all this stuff now, for better or for worse.

Magic has to look real or it isn't magic.