The Storm Riders
Reviewed by YTSL
This 1998 computer graphics heavy Andrew Lau
offering reportedly is the all-time -- or at least, post "Jurassic Park"
stomping and sending shivers down the spine of Hong Kong movie makers --
local box office king of the HKSAR. An unusually well marketed visual
extravaganza (with comic books, computer games, interactive media, electronic
media and all sorts of merchandise tie-ins), it has been described -- by
a Hong Kong Film Critics Society member named Loretta Chang -- as being
more of a media campaign than a film. Additionally, it was reputedly
looked upon as a sterling representative of the hopes of certain segments
of the Hong Kong movie industry to be able to compete with big budget Hollywood
Reading the (other) existing reviews of THE STORM
RIDERS that exist on the internet, one cannot help but realize that this
cartoony -- even if epic in ambition and two years in the making -- movie
adaptation of a comic book most definitely has its share of fans.
If you are the kind of person who likes special effects laden works or
someone who can subsist -- at least for the duration of a single film --
on eye candy alone, I can see why and how this definite style-over-substance
fantasy production can be appealing to some degree. However, I most
emphatically cannot be counted as an appreciator of such brainless and
misogynistic fare which wastes the talents of so many good actors -- like
Anthony Wong, Alex Fong, Yu Rong Guang, Vincent Wan and Roy Cheung; and
if this list is not enough to make you weep, also throw Christine Ng into
the equation... -- by consigning them to bit roles in this over two hour
long travesty while pretty boys and girls are given plenty of time to pose,
preen and prance around (yet still get easily upstaged by Sonny Chiba,
whose part is that of the bloated and rather brainless piece's main villain
and one real heavyweight, Lord Conquer).
With names like Striding Cloud, Whispering Wind
and Frost, the main characters of THE STORM RIDERS could have been monumentally
heroic figures. Instead, as portrayed by the broody hen like Aaron
Kwok, Ekin Cheng at his most blank faced and a bland looking Michael Tse
respectively, they are childishly egoistical individuals whose wind-blown
but always well-coifed hair have more personality than the rest of them.
Whereas the older Lord Conquer wants to rule the world, these juvenile
boys' ambitions primarily consist of getting into bed -- either pre or
post marriage -- with the powerful lord's daughter, Charity (who is played
as a pretty stone-collecting sluttish bimbo by Kristy Yeung)...that is,
when they are not out on accumulating and killing missions for their martial
artistic sifu cum surrogate father, who they only turn against after they
witness and (re-)learn that he caused the death of particular people whose
lives and fates mattered so much more to them than the many innocents they
unthinkingly murdered on the say so of the same man.
Some people who know me will say that it was inevitable
that I would so dislike a movie that stars Aaron Kwok (my candidate for
the title of the world's most narcissistic man) and also has the frequently
highly annoying, for many reasons, Hsu Chi in the cast. This is particularly
so when the line that "all women are trouble" gets solemnly asserted more
than once (and masks the fact that actually, it's covetous men who really
are to blame for a lot of the bad things that happen to people in THE STORM
RIDERS). I will readily admit that there's some truth to these suggestions.
Still, what really appalls me about this obviously expensively made offering
is that it really does lack emotional as well as intellectual depth plus
reduces virtually all of its characters to flat one-dimensionality, and
what would otherwise be serious events -- like callous mass murder -- into
mere footnotes in a frankly stupidly simplistic and predictable tale that
didn't need to be so boringly told over that many feet and reels of film.
Writing this with some knowledge that mine probably
is a minority opinion, I nonetheless will thank the Hong Kong movie gods
that I did not view this horribly soulless as well as insubstantive effort
at the time that it first appeared in East Asian multiplexes. For
if I had thought that this -- whose action scenes, I will also point out,
are not only wire-assisted but also majorly cyber animation reliant and
blurrily filmed -- would be the future of HKSAR cinema...Suffice to state
for now that it might well have been impossible for me today to be the
generally appreciative fan of film fare from that part of the world that
I am (and remain, even after finally watching THE STORM RIDERS as well
as the more technologically laughable but arguably more moving "A Man Called
My rating for this "film": 4.
Reviewed by Brian
Having been forewarned ahead of time, I went
into this film with the low expectations of a fourteen-year-old virgin
on his first date - meaning that if I got anything at all out of this film
I would consider it a plus. Even so I came away from this big budget effort
feeling frustrated that I didn't even have any human contact - physically
or emotionally. This film is weightless, odorless, senseless and characterless
- there is no there there - it is as empty as a computer's soul. To be
fair though - I did find the "eye candy" that YTSL refers to as being terrifically
inventive and visually delightful. The special effects are first rate -
so much better than the ones for this film's abysmal cousin - A Man Called
Hero - and the cinematography and set designs are vivid, crisp, snazzy
and manage to create an interesting alternative world. If only director
Andrew Lau had added some blood and guts to this fantasy, it might have
been a great film - but as it stands it is merely a lush parade of pretty
images and prettier actors.
This film should have been called the Young and
Photogenic. The young stars look so sparkling clean and heroic - their
jaws set like granite - immovable and impassive - cardboard characters
being played by cardboard actors. What sort of direction was Lau giving
his main actors - you are comic book characters - so that means you are
not allowed to change expression - because that would be too difficult
to draw. Aaron almost literally never changes his facial expression the
entire film - it is set in this sullen Calvin Klein model look - as if
his underwear is too tight or someone took the last piece of pecan pie.
Ekin doesn't fare much better - he simply looks confused most of the time
as if trying to figure out why no one is calling him "Big Brother" and
looking a little peeved that Aaron is getting more close-ups and has better
hair than he does. Kristy Yeung looks gorgeous - Lau simply makes her radiate
- but it is clear she has no idea who her character is suppose to be -
Lady MacBeth in training or Little Red Robin Hood - and she gets no help
What really highlights the lightness of these
three main characters is when they are contrasted to the supporting cast.
The film has a terrific supporting cast - often underutilized but
still bringing a high degree of charisma to their roles. Alex Fong and
Yu Rong Guang display passion in their small roles - Christine Ng is corrupt
but poignantly tragic - Lawrence Cheng as the Jester is delightful - Wayne
Lai as the Mud Buddha is slyly enigmatic - Roy Cheung as the Monk is a
pillar of strength - Vincent Wan as Dr. Yu with the arm that no longer
belongs to him is wise and just - and Anthony Wong takes an interesting
slant on the Sword Saint. Rounding them out are Ng Chi-hung as Master Fung,
Jason Chu as Master Fung's son, Tsui Kam Kong and Lee Sui-kei as two guests
at the wedding. Hsu Chi also shows up as the daughter of Dr. Yu - but I
must confess that her interpretation of this character was . . . interesting
- but somewhat incongruent to how everyone else was playing his or her
character. She actually laughed - and looked to be having a good time -
something no one else seemed capable of. The problem of course is that
all these side characters - as interesting as they were - could not fill
the large and bottomless hole created by Ekin and Aaron.
When this film came out in 1998 there were many
Hong Kong film fans that saw this as a sign of the end of Hong Kong film
- that the uniqueness that made Hong Kong film special would be obliterated
in a torrent of blue screens, computer graphics and Hollywood like marketing
- but three years later we can see that this was fortunately not the case.
So now one can more objectively view this film on its own merits. The first
thing you conclude about this film is that in reality it is not an action
film – not in the Hong Kong sense. There is not one scene worthy of being
called an action scene - it is all special effects or splashy editing as
opposed to martial arts skills being employed. Some of it is fun - but
there comes a point in the film where you ache for something real - man
against man - flesh hitting flesh - steel clashing on steel - as opposed
to people swirling their arms about and waves of energy and light being
emitted and things being blown up.
So this is really a fantasy film - good vs. evil
- destiny being fulfilled - all those classic elements that fantasy films
are founded on. This film has all of this in theory - so why does it fail
so miserably to involve one's emotions? The answer falls at the feet of
Cloud and Wind. Are we suppose to care about these two - one a guilt free
mass murderer and the other a dithering Hamlet who can't seem to find the
backbone to revenge his parents or his love? Are we suppose to clutch our
hearts and be thrilled when they finally team up together to fight Conqueror.
They are not really even doing it for the right reasons - good vs. evil
- but instead because Conqueror has hurt their feelings by turning on them.
That he was cruel and wicked certainly never bothered them before
- they carried out his orders like spoiled upper class fraternity boys
during freshman hazing. Am I suppose to care about their fates because
they are Ekin and Aaron? Does anyone really want these two to rule this
empire - certainly not me.
Compare this film to the classic Zu Warriors that
it resembles in style. Zu Warriors has special effects that people chuckle
at now for their lack of sophistication - but damn you care about the characters
- you care about the outcome - you want the Ice Princess to survive
- you want Yuen Biao, Mang Hoi and Moon Lee to save the world - it has
heart - this film doesn't even know where the heart is suppose to be.
My rating for this film: 6.0 (8 for the enjoyable
fx and design - 4 for the uninvolving story)
Distributed by Universe
The transfer is terrific - pretty much what
you would expect from this film.
Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks
16 Chapters with titles
The subtitles are Chinese or English.
There is a trailer for this film - in Cantonese,
Mandarin and an International version.
The subs are on the black border and are very
easy to read.
There are a number of Star Files - Aaron Kwok,
Ekin Cheng, Kristy Yeung, Hsu Chi, Sonny Chiba, John Chu, Raymond Chow,
Andrew Lau, Manfred Wong and Ma Wing Shing (the comic creator).
There is a summary and information on the characters
in the film.
There is a Making of piece.
A visual piece on the special effects.
A poster collection.