I must admit, I came at The Storm Warriors with very little knowledge of its creators, the Pang brothers, but as someone who appreciates Asian cinema, I felt that I had the sensibilities to enjoy the film. The movie deals with a Japanese invasion of China by a dread warlord named Lord Godless. As the film opens, we learn from an almost impossible to follow title sequence, he has captured China’s mightiest heroes and is preparing to execute them. Being invincible, Lord Godless is almost assured of victory, unless two of the aforementioned Chinese heroes, Wind and Cloud, can combine their power to defeat him and his army.
We learn all this and much more in the first two minutes of the movie.
Many of the imprisoned Chinese heroes manage to escape the clutches of Lord Godless in a battle that sets the tone for the rest of the film’s action – furious melee combat which eventually turns into two men squaring off at a distance while channeling powerful forces to shoot at each other while growling lines like, “Your Millions of Swords is strong but you can’t beat me!”. How the heroes escape is a bit of a mystery. Some of them appear to be helped by a mysterious stranger, yet others merely burst free from their chains and join the fight. Which leads me to the question, if they could just break their chains, why didn’t they do it before the invincible warlord arrived to execute them, perhaps allowing them to rally and mount an effective counter attack rather than enduring the chaotic and costly battle that ensues?
Wind and Cloud are sent to consult the great master Lord Wicked, who is uncle to another hero named the Piggy King, who, I’m not making this up, refers to him as “Uncle Lord Wicked”. They are told by Lord Wicked that they do not have time to train to the level they need to be to defeat Lord Godless, as his forces are on the move and close to victory. But if they train in “the evil way”, a path that is faster and easier but holds the risk of losing your soul, they may be able to defeat him. It is decided that Wind is better equipped to handle the rigors of “the evil way” and so he begins his training while Cloud goes off and trains with another hero called Nameless, who transfers his power to Cloud, making Cloud powerful enough to battle Godless. Are you keeping up?
The plot follows pretty much the exact line that you would expect, with many nonsensical departures like Lord Godless’s announcement that if he can find the Dragon Tomb he will control China, which leads to a long series of chases and battles for the possession of what appears to be a rubber novelty spinal column, the eventual destruction of which seems to have no effect on the story’s outcome. There are many battles that play like crosses between 300 and the Harry Potter movies mashed up with crazy wire fu, many brooding, hunky heroes posing for shots straight out of either a manga or the Cantonese equivalent of Teen Beat, lots of noise and flash and eventually your eyes glaze over and you start checking the running time to see how much of the movie is left.
The Storm Warriors is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen transfer. The picture looks great with lots of rich colour and deep blacks. Colour reproduction is very good, with good-looking skin tones and a very clean image.
The disc contains both Cantonese and an English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround tracks, with optional subtitles in English or Spanish. The sound is excellent, with much booming bass and good use of the rear channels throughout the film. Dialogue is well recorded and clear, never getting drowned out by the constant noise of the action onscreen.
Automatic Trailers: Kung Fu Master, The Legend of Bruce Lee, Three Kingdoms, Legendary Assassin
Behind the Scenes With Interviews (5:02): Your basic featurette with the actors explaining their roles.
Special Effects of The Storm Warriors (3:41): Another featurette, this one focused on design decisions and special effects.
The Storm Warriors Trailer (1:30)
If you’re a fan of the Pang brothers, anime, manga, or just plain crazy action movies and are willing to shut off the old brain, The Storm Warriors could very well be a worthy purchase. If you merely like the idea of those things but don’t consider yourself at fan level yet, a rental would probably be the more prudent choice. But be warned: though the movie is well shot and often gorgeous to look at, the eventual effect is that of being locked in a room with a misting machine, a strobe light, and a disco ball, with a confetti cannon aimed directly at your face. Keep a bottle of Tylenol handy.