Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Hero () is a film first released in China on October 24, 2002. It was both the most expensive and the highest-grossing motion picture in Chinese cinema history. It hit US theaters on August 27, 2004 despite the fact that the Asian DVD had already been available for over a year. It became the top-grossing film in the first week of its US debut, at US$18M, and continued to lead the US box office in its second week at US$11.5M. It fell to the 4th place in its third week at US$4.4M. It set a record as the highest-grossing opening-weekend foreign language film in the United States. The US edition of the DVD, with Mandarin, English and French sound track, was released on November 30, 2004.
Hero is a movie of the wuxia genre, directed by Zhang Yimou. It stars Jet Li as the nameless hero. A team of assassins are played by Maggie Cheung (Flying Snow), Tony Leung Chiu Wai (Broken Sword), Donnie Yen (Long Sky), and Zhang Ziyi (Moon). Chen Daoming plays their intended target, the King of Qin.
The movie is set during the Warring States Period. It tells the story of assassination attempts on the king of Qin by legendary warriors who seek revenge for his subjugation of their nation. The king justifies his actions in the cause of unifying China, using the fact that there is no common writing system among the people to illustrate this. In the text at the end of the film, the king is identified as Ying Zheng, who in 221 BC did indeed unite China under his command and become its first emperor, Qin Shi Huang (lived 259-210 BC; reigned 246-210 BC).
The film was Zhang's first attempt at this genre, and it uses a highly unusual structure. Conflicting versions of the events are recounted by different characters, in a structure reminiscent of Kurosawa's Rashomon (1950). Each section uses a different color scheme depending on the narrator, similar to how everything turns green in the virtual world of The Matrix; Zhang's movies often feature rigorous color schemes.
An interesting point is that, as the movie progresses and more versions of the same story are presented, the characters of the narration improve with each new telling. They grow more intelligent, insightful, and thoughtful as the plot progresses. At the start of the movie, during the first story told by the Nameless Hero, Broken Sword is portrayed as a mere brawler and Flying Snow seems ruled by her thoughts of the past and her hatred/love of Broken Sword; at the conclusion of the movie, in the Nameless Hero's final story and the scenes after his death, Broken Sword is presented as a deeply contemplative and forward-thinking warrior and Flying Snow is a woman who feels the weight of their entire civilisation resting upon her shoulders in addition to her own feelings. They are forced to grapple with complex issues that force them to think rather than fight, and they must weigh their own lives against their entire nation.
The film has a tragic structure; its six main characters come to realize that China's unity depends on their own decisions and actions. This feeling of patriotic responsibility conflicts with their own personal desires for revenge, and with their relationships to each other. Ultimately, the film's conclusion is that of a classic tragedy.
Although inspired in part by the success of movies such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the film failed to be as successful as its makers hoped, in part due to criticism overseas at a perceived pro-totalitarian and pro-Chinese reunification subtext. Such suspicions were probably aroused by the support given to the film by the Chinese government. These critics argue that the ulterior meaning of the film is the triumph of security and stability over liberty and human rights and that the concept of all under heaven is used to justify the incorporation of Tibet within the People's Republic of China and promote the reunification of Taiwan with mainland China. This would not be the only time that Zhang Yimou has been thus criticized; Zhang purportedly withdrew from the 1999 Cannes Film Festival to protest similar criticism, though some believe that Zhang had other reasons .
However, defenders of Zhang Yimou and his film argue that the Chinese government's support of Hero is no different from the US military providing support to filmmakers portraying US armed forces in a positive light. Others reject entirely that Zhang Yimou had any political motives in making the film.
- Jiuzhaigou Valley: The flying fight scene between Nameless and Broken Sword was filmed above the waters of Arrow Bamboo Lake in the Jiuzhaigou Valley of northern Sichuan.
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