Monday, May 22, 2006

THE PROMISE - More of that high flying mystical Chinese soap opera stuff

The Chinese sure love their cinematography. Few American movies can match the investment movies like THE PROMISE make in their dedication to color and cinematic beauty. Every scene a painting, every character ultra vivid, these movies are incredible to look at. Of course, the price you pay for that is enduring unbelievably corny dialogue and entirely ridiculous story arcs that strain your ability to remain in the cinema as they take place.

Yet THE PROMISE is very much worth watching, particularly if you're a fan of this kind of cinema or just fantasy in general. The characters are all in boldface; the doomed beauty, the brash and conquering general, the embittered villain, the mysterious assassin and most important, the slave who really isn't a slave. In terms of broad narrative, The Promise is actually really good, an epic and grand adventure with characters who have to discover themselves in order to come to terms with the world, others that rise and fall from glory and a resolution to the whole thing that is satisfying without being saccharine.

So the narrative problems don't occur in the broad story arc. They are credulity straining loose ends left unanswered that nag and annoy the viewer (and likely destroy the movie for most of the audience to be honest). The rationale of a certain goddess and her interferance is never explained, so unlike Greek mythology where you get a picture of the gods as petty and self interested, here you have a meddlesome goddess working to no particular purpose. Then the storytellers forget to explain how our villain is able to destroy a race of superbeings or why he is so unable to defeat a merely human general, and their explanation of his general bitterness is far from acceptable. One more major problem occurs in the first half hour of the movie, an entirely unrealistic war scene with iffy graphics and the worst potrayal of war strategy and battle I've ever had the displeasure of seeing in a movie. Oh and why on earth or any other world would a general go face his enemy without putting on his (near mythical) armor first? This movie has no shortage of flaws.

Despite these problems though, I find myself quite enamored of The Promise, particularly in retrospect. Part of the reason for that is that the movie picks up as it goes along, becoming more intriguing with the introduction of the assassin character and the development of the protagonist's back story (plot holes and all). There is also far humor in the latter half of the movie than at the beginning, where it takes itself too seriously. If you're the kind of movie viewer who is able to relax into a movie and look past its flaws, The Promise has much to offer. Aside of the gorgeous cinematography, the acting is top notch with wonderfully evocative actors. For a fantasy geek (my name is Flint and I am a fantasy geek), some of the ideas within it are totally thrilling and impossible to let go off when you leave the cinema. That's the Promise, flawed but entertaining. It can by no means be called a good movie but it isn't all bad.

THE PROMISE was released in China last Christmas and played Berlin 2006. It is currently on release in Germany, Austria and the US. I do not know of a release date for the UK or Aus.

No comments:

Post a Comment