16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on July 30, 2013
Back in January, I reviewed a steampunk/martial-arts hybrid film titled TAI CHI ZERO (click here to read that review [...] which is the first of a trilogy. I complimented the film on its originality and fast-paced action. The second film of the trilogy, TAI CHI HERO, is available now and is definitely a worthy follow-up to the original. With higher stakes and even wilder fight scenes, this second film will have you begging for the third and final film to come out!
I can't decide if I like the first or second film better. Both are excellent in their own regards and have high re-watch factors. But both also have their own distinctions. The first is revolutionary with its story; I believe it is the first ever steampunk film to integrate martial-arts action. But the second film broadens the storyline and introduces new characters, along with new threats and villains. This is accomplished while keeping the original plot in place, making for a cohesive and enjoyable sequel.
TAI CHI HERO is shot well and the acting is great. But what really makes an impression on the audience is the action. I never get tired of wire-work when it is well done, as is the case here. The kicks are high, the punches are fast and the fight choreography reaches new heights. If you're not breathless after watching the final battle, then you probably don't have a pulse.
I like how more back-story is given in this film as well; we find out more about previous happenings in regard to Lu Chan as well as the Grand Master of the village. This is integral for the story, as it shows us who they really are as people.
The steampunk in TAI CHI HERO is amped up a bit as well. Instead of a mechanized steam-powered tank, we get to see a steam-driven flying machine. This is interesting because the craft resembles a sketch of Leonardo DaVinci's I once saw at a museum. I'm not sure if this is intentional or not, but it made me grin nonetheless.
TAI CHI HERO is a true win for me, and I cannot wait to see how the third and final film shapes up. The very ending of this film gives us an idea of what to expect, and WOW...I'm literally on the edge of my seat just thinking about the possibilities! I highly recommend giving this film and its predecessor a look.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 31, 2013
Finally being able to kick back and watch the sequel to TAI CHI ZERO was a major treat; truly a dazzling film! I thought TAI CHI HERO was better than the first in every way, with more story, amazing fight choreography, beautiful locations and a first-rate story to wrap up the story started in the first installment. I was really surprised by the amount of emotion packed into this film, a jail sequence in particular was especially moving.
Everything looked and sounded great on this release, picture was outstanding. I was very entertained with this film and didn't want it to end. Thankfully a third installment will be on the way and it should prove interesting considering the Stormare sub-plot. Chinese fantasy lovers are really going to dig this film. Nothing too heavy, just the right amount of fighting and some fun machines. Bravo!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 10, 2013
(1.) Great location - the type of natural carved canyon that makes the film a visual pleasure just on that alone.
(2.) Great sets/props - the usual beautiful, authentic intricate carving and crafting found in Chinese epic films; often at full (and I mean full) scale.
(3.) Great story line - bringing us a bit of the history of Tai Chi as it relates to Kung fu.
(4.) Great contemporary tie ins - some classical pop music; then some metal or rock; then some computer game animations. A good spoofing, at times,
of the martial arts genre e.g. with the fruits and veggies or when the moves were following the cooking style of each meal. Great steampunk tie in. Great da
Vinci tie in with regards to his design and innovations e.g. the flying machine.
(5.) Great wire acts and martial arts - imaginative wire routines with Tai chi juxtaposed to Kung fu movements; nothing ridiculous just to fill space but instead used to educate as to the philosophy and aesthetic of the movements.
(6.) Great acting -yet nuanced, understated performances in keeping with Tai chi philosophy.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Unlike many other critics I know and correspond with, I tend to struggle with traditional martial arts movies. It isn't that I don't like or I don't find them particularly entertaining because that's far from the truth. Rather, I tend to think that my `disassociation' from them thematically is that I just don't identify with the `struggle' to learn or master a particular fighting style. Maybe that's because, growing up, I didn't much partake in sports regularly, so I don't always see the fascination with mastering one's physique in the same way. However, when a martial arts film comes along that has a winning story and actors with some impressive command of their fisticuffs AND the ability to muster a solid screen presence, then I'm usually hooked.
If you're here reading this modest review for TAI CHI HERO and you're a bit lost, maybe you haven't seen the first chapter, TAI CHI ZERO (or TAI CHI 0 as some sites have it listed)? You might want to watch that one before you adventure into this installment, otherwise you're not going to legitimately appreciate these crazy, zany characters and what they add uniquely to this crazy, zany world.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you're the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then this may not be for you! Instead, I'd encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you're accepting of a few modest hints at `things to come,' then read on ...)
This sequel to TAI CHI ZERO - actually, it's part two of a planned trilogy - continues to depict the adventures and misadventures involving the people of Chen Village, masters of Chen-style kung fu - benefits from a stronger thematic story focusing on brotherhood, family, and redemption ... and it also benefits from some sharper editing that slowed down small portions of the first film. Working from a story by Kuo-fu Chen, director Sammo Hung serves up another helping for fans of traditional martial arts films as well as their friends and family who get dragged along to the flick not knowing what to expect.
When we last visited Chen Village, the residents nearly fell under the attack orchestrated by Fang Zi Jing (played with suitable menace by Eddie Peng) and a huge, steam-powered tank. Lu Chan (our hero, played by Jayden Yuan) and his budding love interest Yu Niang (Angela Yeung Wing, aka `Angelbaby') were only on the verge of something special, but this time out - in order for the village elders to bless Lu Chan with proper training in their martial arts - Master Chen Chang Xing (the legendary Tony Leung Ka Fei) orders his daughter to properly wed the young misfit in order to eliminate his `outsider' status. While she begrudgingly agrees to the marriage, she also insists that Lu Chan behave as her student (she will be conducting his training) as well as call her `master.' It's a comedy of manners as the two slowly succumbs to their true affections for one another and discover love, all the while trying to save their small mountain city from Fang's approaching army!
Like the first film, HERO is bursting at the seams with some amazing fight choreography (most of it is entirely bloodless and fairly family-friendly ... so long as you're okay with little Timmy or Susie watching the kung fu). Also, I'd be remiss in my duties if I didn't point out that there's some stunningly wonderful cinematography captured in here; both the big moments (some stunning vistas) and the smaller (some more intimate close-ups of the players) are handled with great depth and care. If anything, one could make an argument that these TAI CHI films are beautifully packaged by all involved; I wouldn't be surprised to learn that this was director Hung's intent - to deliver a big epic - because it all feels quite deliberate.
Still, I found this one a bit smaller, a bit more intimate than the first visit to this universe, and I think that strongly aided the story. There's more emphasis on character - the script tinkers almost as elaborately with themes of family and tradition as much as it does machines and gadgets - and, as such, there's more here for these talented players to work with. Much in the same way that THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK added to the mysticism and the mythology of the original STAR WARS, TAI CHI HERO serves up a middle chapter that, no doubt, should have fans clamoring for more.
I know I will be.
TAI CHI HERO is produced by Huayi Brothers & Taihe Film Investment and Diversion Pictures. DVD distribution (stateside) is being handled through the always reliable Well Go USA. For those needing it spelled out perfectly, this is a Chinese language picture with English subtitles; packaging indicates there is an English-dubbing track available, but I didn't use it. As for the technical specifications, I can't shout a WOW big enough; this picture looks and sounds incredible from start to finish with increasingly impressive cinematography. (There's a healthy amount of slow-motion photography, but, given the circumstances of the story and choreography, I didn't find any of it over-used as can be the case with some films.) Lastly, the disc rounds out the special features with the theatrical trailer and a 60-minute making-of documentary that takes viewers behind-the-scenes with production snippets and short interviews.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Fun, frenetic, and even sometimes frivolous, there's still much to love about TAI CHI HERO, the second installment in a proposed trilogy dealing when Chen-style kung fu (which gets royally renamed as simply `Tai Chi' this time out). It boasts some terrifically heroic characters for an action comedy; it delivers a visually exciting world that continues to combine elements of traditional Chinese films along with steampunk and anime inspirations; and it puts eye-popping martial arts action up on the silver (or small) screen in a reverential manner befitting the masters and grandmasters who study it. Plus, did I mention it was just good clean fun? (Yeah, I did. Right up front. My bad.)
In the interests of fairness, I'm pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Well Go USA provided me with a DVD copy of TAI CHI HERO by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 23, 2013
A great sequel to Tai Chi Zero. Picture, sound, martial arts, acting, directing, editing and presentation all done very well. Recommended!!