My knowledge of the Three Kingdoms era is predominantly informed by the Dynasty Warriors video game series, but it’s an age well-loved by the Chinese and their historical epics. I was very interested in seeing this retelling of the Battle of Chibi when it came out, but was dissuaded by a review saying that the single-movie release shown in the cinema was a horrendously overedited mess not worth seeing, recommending that the original two movies be tracked down.
I can’t imagine the trauma inflicted on the plot of these lengthy movies, which kept me engaged all along. My ignorance of history probably helped as I was unsure who would survive and who would die (though supposedly this movie departs from the historical record).
As expected, Cao Cao was the villain, and I strongly suspect that his side was given short shrift by inaccurate subtitles that omitted names in favour of titles. I kept thinking Zhao Yun was Tony Leung (looking much better as Zhou Yu than in Infernal Affairs); the ever-popular pretty-boy Takeshi Kaneshiro was (of course) Zhuge Liang, and it was quite interesting seeing Sun Shangxiang as a real person with a major role. Nakamura Shidou made a very tough-looking Gan Xing.
I really liked the back-and-forth of strategy and the spectacular battle scenes. The fact that John Woo was the director didn’t even come to mind. The ending was a bit anti-climatic, but I suppose they had to stick to the historical record.