Visions of Paradise

Thursday, April 28, 2005

The Incredibles / Hero

Recently we have been watching more videos than we ever watched before, mostly because we have been getting free rentals through our Discover credit card. Jean and the boys watch most of them, but occasionally I rent one for myself.

Since this week is Spring Break, I knew I had ample time to watch a few videos, so I have gotten two videos which ironically both deal with the question of what does being a hero imply?

The first video was The Incredibles, which was a delightful Pixar movie about a forcibly-retired super-hero couple, Mr. Incredible and Elasti-Girl. In an era in which super-heroes are relocated because of lawsuits resulting from their previous exploits, two main problems linger as a result: Mr. Incredible (and his closest buddy Frozone) cannot totally give up the “rush” of fighting crime, and the two children of Mr. Incredible and Elasti-Girl have inherited super-powers of their own, which they are anxious to use while their parents forbid them to show any hint of abnormality.

The Incredibles is fairly light entertainment, so I do not think I am spoiling anybody’s viewing pleasure by revealing that the movie’s climax involves the entire super-family going to battle against equally-super-baddies. It’s all fun, with a twinge of thoughtfulness included.

A much more serious take on being a hero is Zhang Yimou’s Hero. I am not normally a martial arts fan, so this movie would not have interested me at all if it were not directed by Zhang Yimou, one of my favorite directors. His Raise the Red Lantern and Red Sorghum were both wonderful movies, combining thoughtfulness with characterization and probably the most beautiful cinematography I have ever seen.

Hero was typical Yimou with its absolutely gorgeous scenery and well-choreographed scenes. It told the story of four assassins conspiring to kill the king of the Qin kingdom who is trying to unite the six warring kingdoms of China two thousands years ago into one country under his control. There are plenty of martial arts scenes, but even they were done in typical Yimou-style, so that rather than the fantastic fighting being the focus of those scenes, they were actually the centerpieces of much larger tapestries. And the assassins’ quest is also a small part of the examination of such things as patriotism, the true meaning of being a hero, and the relationship between calligraphy and swordsmanship. Overall, Hero combined equal parts mystery, visual splendor, and thoughtfulness, all wrapped around an action thriller.

You do not need to enjoy thrillers to enjoy this movie; in fact, if action is the only reason you watch martial arts movies, this might not be the movie for you. I was tepid towards Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but I thought Hero was vastly superior. I recommend it highly.

15 Comments:

  • I agree that The Incredibles is a dilightful fun movie. It's better than a lot of Disney's cheesy movies.
    But I didn't like Hero. For me the cast and costumes are very awkward. Although the color and scenary are amazing and I must say that Zhang is a great photographer the movie has no plot. It is based on the too often repeated story of the assassination of QinShiHuang and the three explanations don't make sense. Overall, I found it confusing and a bad representation of ancient China.

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