Legend of Zu, The (2001) Review

"The Legend of Zu" Chinese Theatrical Poster

“The Legend of Zu” Chinese Theatrical Poster

AKA: Zu Warriors
Director: Tsui Hark
Writer: Tsui Hark
Cast: Zhang Ziyi, Sammo Hung, Ekin Cheng, Cecilia Cheung, Wu Jing, Louis Koo, Kelly Lin Xi-Lei, Patrick Tam Yiu-Man
Running Time: 104 min.

By Numskull

You know what sucks? When you expect a movie to be really, really bad… and it turns out to be really, really, REALLY bad.

Tsui Hark’s follow up to his 1983 hit Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain is not so much a movie as it is an exercise in visual masturbation and technological overindulgence the likes of which is rarely seen outside of the Star Wars series. “Eye candy” suggests something sweet, but the taste that Legend of Zu will leave in your mouth is so bitter, you’ll gargle with your own piss to get rid of it.

This pile of dung was a critical and commercial failure (compared to what was expected of such a high-profile film, anyway), and it’s not hard to see why. Tsui Hark fails to realize that you CAN have too much of a good thing. Sure, the special effects are slick, but when you saturate the celluloid with them at every opportunity and allow them to completely overwhelm the story (feeble though it may be), they cease to be “special” and they cause the whole movie to become a blur (even more so than in the first Zu film). I am truly in awe of how absorbing The Legend of Zu ISN’T. During the last 20 minutes or so, I probably glanced at the timer on my DVD player TWICE for each CGI shot. Yes folks, it’s THAT dull.

Let’s see…there’s a nasty demon named Insomnia who appears in the form of a skull composed of lots of shining, floating spheres, two old friends named Sky King and Red, a couple named Hollow and Enigma, that “Whitebrows” guy again, and a whole bunch of other characters (mostly immortals) about whom I simply could not make myself give a shit. The jumble of subplots will pass through your head like spaghetti through a strainer. The only part that stood out for me was when the little red fairy took up residence in some guy’s skull, because it reminded me of the song “Lady Rosenred” by Lake of Tears, which starts: “There’s a fairy in my head and I call her Lady Rosenred.” Why am I mentioning this? A) To shamelessly plug one of my favorite bands (alas, they’ve split up) and B) because I’d rather just sit and listen to that one song for 104 minutes (that would be about 40 or 45 times, I think; it’s short) than endure this shitty movie again.

With all the notable names attached to Legend of Zu (besides Tsui Hark, I mean), you’d think that some modicum of enjoyment could be had based on talent alone, but that is not the case. Cecelia Chung, Louis Koo and company can’t be expected to act at their best when they’re standing in front of blue screens 90% of the time. Zhang Ziyi has very limited screen time and displays neither the dramatic vigor nor the physical grace of her previous films; yet another disappointment. She stole Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, she stole Rush Hour 2, and she might have stolen Musa (her best film to date) if not for the unbelievably cool performance of Korean actor Jung Woo-sung. In one scene, she sneers at some guy (can’t be bothered to keep track of who’s who): “You make me sick.” I wonder…was she thinking of Tsui Hark when she said that? Then there’s Sammo Hung, in a different role than in the first Zu, who probably wished like hell that he was still doing that Martial Law TV show when this film came out. And perhaps most wasted of all is the one and only Yuen Wo-ping, lending his talents to the production in the position of martial arts instructor (or choreographer, or whatever…in a movie this bad, it simply doesn’t matter). Question: doesn’t “martial arts instructor” (or choreographer, or…oh yeah, I already did that) imply that the movie is actually going to have martial arts in it? All I saw here was people waving their hands around (I guess maybe that counts, but that doesn’t mean I can’t raise a stink over it) while staring vacuously at some spot where a computer-generated image was to be inserted later. Oh yeah, and a tiny bit of swordplay between yet another “some guy” and some OTHER guy, shot only from behind, dressed up as Zhang Ziyi’s character (I was going to try and work in some reference to the double wearing “ZZ’s Top” but it wouldn’t have been funny, so fuck it).

The best thing about Legend of Zu is that Bob and Harvey Weinstein/”Scissorhands” gave it their backing (even in its original state, I mean), so it’s a safe assumption that the cocksuckers lost money on it. Now they’ve given it the Miramax treatment (including a new title, “Zu Warriors”) and, with any luck, will lose money on that, too. I’d love to think that the film’s overall shittiness will sour these bastards on Hong Kong cinema so they leave it the fuck alone, but let’s not get our hopes up.

Overall, I would say that Legend of Zu is slightly more fun that bathing in sulfuric acid. Nice scenery and a decent musical score can’t stop it from sucking really, really hard. A colossal waste of time, energy, and resources that should go down in history as one of the biggest fuck-ups that the cinematic art form ever spawned.

Numskull’s Rating: 2/10

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