Big hair, big swords and nothing else
dir: The Pang Brothers
This either is or isn’t a sequel to a Hong Kong flick called The Storm Riders that I remember from the late 90s. I remember it well, and fondly. It was probably one of the last flicks I ever bought on VHS video tape.
Ah, video tape, how quaint and retro you seem now, which juxtaposes nicely with the fact that what made The Storm Riders stand out way back then was that it was the first of the martial arts flicks to use the new CGI effects well in the scope of telling one of their usual, incomprehensible sword based melodramas.
Whether Storm Warriors is actually the sequel, or whether its title is supposed to be Storm Riders II, or whether it’s Storm Warriors II, I can’t figure out. In fact, there’s very little I can figure about after watching this flick twice. Admittedly, Storm Riders was hard to follow as well, because of a multiplicity of characters and bad subtitles. But it was fun, and I still basically understood what was going on, and I very much enjoyed it, regardless of whether a Mud Buddha was chasing a fire monkey or when someone steals the power to freeze a body in order to ensure that his dead beloved’s body doesn’t ever decompose.
I can relate to you ever single thing that happens in Storm Warriors, but I can't explain how or why any of it happens or what any of it could possibly mean. It’s not just because of a virtually indecipherable script. It has some of the worst editing of any expensive movie I’ve ever seen since the last time Guy Ritchie or Tony Scott made movies.
On top of that there are lousy performances and an incredible abundance of effects and techniques meant to ape such blockbusters as 300, Lord of the Rings and Spider-Man, with none of the attendant ability required to put any of it together in a coherent way.
Look, I’ll be the first to admit that I can’t pretend to be an authority on any of the things that seem to occur in terms of the plot, because the plot is borderline insane and it’s been poorly filtered through into subtitles that read like they were written by an acid-tripping fortune cookie writer, but when you can’t ever figure out what the fuck is supposed to be happening when there’s no dialogue involved, then it’s simply the most incompetent storytelling you’ll see all year that Michael Bay has had nothing to do with.
The two characters I ‘fondly’ remember from the first flick are Wind (Ekin Cheng) and Cloud (Aaron Kwok). Cloud is moody and monosyllabic. Wind is moody and monosyllabic, but in a different way. They both go to tremendous lengths to redefine how wooden acting has to be before filming a forest of bamboo results in more resonate images.
In the first film they played two orphans raised by a monstrous megalomaniac called Lord Conquer (Sonny Chiba), who became their adoptive father for his own nefarious ends. In this flick, right from the start, they’re battling some powerful Japanese supervillain called Lord Godless (Simon Yam), who’s conquering all of China, seemingly just with the force of his own personality, and because he looks like Sauron from the Lord of the Rings flicks, except gentler, and more cuddly.
He doesn’t spend the whole flick looking for a ring, but he really doesn’t do much else apart from standing around menacingly, glaring at people, and killing people with his badass Japanese fight magic. Encased as he is in this black Styrofoam armour, he is invincible, I guess, which is bad news for our apparent heroes.
I say apparent because the flick really doesn’t explain why Wind and Cloud are the heroes. We assume they are, they are referred to as being mighty heroes, but they don’t really do anything even vaguely heroic. They stand around looking mildly perturbed for the entire flick, pensively gazing off into the middle distance, thinking about whether they should get a coffee or not, and maybe a bagel.
It’s hard to think of less heroic figures. That Lord Godless is the bad guy is obvious: since as anyone knows, people in stupid jump suits who invade other countries for no good reason are dastardly, no-good villains. But Wind and Cloud? They’re just emotionally stunted guys with very long hair extensions. In other words, they’re not really any more good or evil than any of the members of 80s hair metal bands like Poison, Warrant or Skid Row.
Come to think of it those shmucks were pretty evil.
When Wind and Cloud figure out they can’t beat Lord Godless, they go elsewhere for help to a guy called Lord Wicked in order to learn some magic/fighting techniques that will help them best him. Lord Wicked chooses between the two shmucks, believing Wind is the nicer of the two lads, who is less likely to become fully evil if he bathes in a pool of liquid evil and absorbs lots of evil power.
Yes, it’s that level of dumbness. While Wind literally sits in an evil pool, Cloud wanders off somewhere else and is taught some other killer techniques by a nameless guy called, um, Nameless, where they do a training montage worthy of Rocky itself, except on a mountain top with CGI bluescreen/greenscreen around them at every goddamn irritating moment. It shames me to say this, but this flick makes 300 look like Lawrence of Arabia.
You know, I could go on talking about the minutiae of the plot, and who does what and who kills who, but the important thing to realise is that none of it fucking well matters. By the time Wind and Cloud are fighting Lord Godless again, and then fighting each other, and fighting over the spine of some long dead Chinese monarch, you, like I, couldn’t possibly care any longer.
All of this would be forgivable if the fights, which, let’s face it, are the only reason to watch these monstrosities, were decent. I’d forgive this terrible script, with shit that makes no sense, characters appearing out of nowhere for no earthly or unearthly reason, if the fights were good or at least visible. Throughout the entire duration the fights are merely the suggestion, the impression of fights derived not from actual fight choreography and skills to pay bills, but from almost random, split-second edits and multiple overlays of computer effects that detract instead of add anything to the proceedings.
I’ve rarely, if ever, seen anything as pointless as the last half hour of this flick, but I’m not going to belabour the point that much further, except to say that calling it an incoherent waste of time would be insulting to people who traffic in daily instances of crazy incoherence, like the crazy people on street corners screaming about whatever demons plague their lice-filled heads.
And they’re the ones I really care about; certainly not Wind, Cloud, Heart, Nameless, Second Dream or any of the other pointless characters in this screamingly pointless endeavour. The female characters in this are hilarious, though, because their purpose is even more utilitarian than that of the nameless but red-shirted characters that famously populated the original series of Star Trek, whose purpose was just to die. Here, they are shunned mostly by our (possibly gay) main heroes until they die, and then our heroes are supposed to be mad because the women they treated dismissively for the whole flick have died.
Boo hoo. Ooooo, now we really have to fight incoherently for another half hour, because you killed… wait, what was her name again?
The people responsible for this flick, I have to say, have made a whole bunch of terrible flicks that I’ve seen and hated over the years, and I hold out no hope for them ever making anything that makes any sense or ever looks like a partly coherent movie. The Eye and Bangkok Dangerous (either version, with or without Nicolas Cage) were mediocre at best and badly made at worst. Storm Warriors shows that with all the effects in the world, CGI or otherwise, these two Pang brothers can’t even manage to put together a production that could kindly be referred to as half-assed. It’s not even a quarter-assed effort, and since there’s two of them, it means they can’t even manage an eighth between them.
But, you know, I’m now really looking forward to Storm Warriors II, or Storm Riders III or whatever the fuck it’s going to be called, because I really needs those loose ends tied up. I won’t be able to sleep otherwise.
3 times all that CGI crap can’t be good for our eyeballs out of 10
“If Lord Godless gets the Dragon Spine, then China will be lost forever.” – surely it’s not that easy since, after all, China has a firm grip on the US’s debt laden balls – Storm Warriors