The Legend of Zu (2001)
Reviewed by: Trigger on 2001-11-20
Summary: CGI
Tsui Hark is one of my favorite directors - I can't help but love the way he captures his visions on film time after time. I loved Time and Tide and simply adore pretty much all of his older films - including Knockoff which was critically panned across the board. He's known in some circles as the low-rent Spielberg, but personally I think dollar for dollar - Tsui Hark is much better than Spielberg. Speaking of dollars - Legend of Zu appears to have had quite a few spent on its production. The CGI is in almost ever frame of every scene. But I don't want to jump ahead of myself...

So Legend of Zu is related to Zu: Warriors of the Magic Mountain - a Tsui Hark film as well from the 80's. Many people adore Zu: Warriors and consider it a landmark film. It truly was a spectacle at the time and certainly holds up today. It's almost like a Star Wars of Hong Kong folklore. The original film had everything - adventure, comedy, great action, awe inspiring special effects and well developed characters. Legend of Zu didn't quite live up to the original except in the realm of special effects. It's a dazzling spectacle to say the least, but it lacks any of the personality, story, character development and comedy of the first. It has those elements in it, but they aren't quite as saturating.

I'd summarize the story, but to be honest - I couldn't make much sense of it. I found myself getting bored and getting near dozing off a few times. The story has a few references to the original film that I was able to recognize and I think it takes place several hundred years after the first film but in the same location. If I tried to explain it I would sound like an idiot, so I'll refrain. Just know that you can watch this with or without seeing the first film as this isn't quite a sequel... much like you can watch Evil Dead 2 without having seen Evil Dead.

The characters don't have much time to get developed here - there's a few that have a chance, but nothing really becomes of it. The film is just a big mess of people trying to perform outrageous aerial acrobatics with fireworks and lights in an attempt to thwart evil - all the while shouting things to each other. It's kinda like watching Power Rangers. I think this film was intended for kids in the same way that Episode 1 (star wars) was... lots of boring dialogue that doesn't really mean anything combined with a ton of CGI effects. But be aware that there is some blood here and there (heck, there's even a blood cloud).

The effects were damn cool though. It certainly raises the bar on HK special effects. Was CGI overused here? Perhaps, but probably not. It was appropriate for the type of film this was. I think people who loved Storm Riders and Man Called Hero will probably dig this film. I feel the same about Legend of Zu as I do about those two... fun to watch, but the story isn't engaging enough.

All I can say is that the DVD will probably become your new show-off disc - the visuals are as stunning as the Matrix and the subwoofer will certainly get a workout - there's a ton of low frequency sound effects in this that will cause your neighbors to have you evicted.

Overall, the film was okay - for what it was I'll have to give it a 6/10 all things considered. It probably deserves a worse score, but the film managed to dazzle me for an hour and a half and I think that's all it set out to do. It won't win any awards for acting or writing or anything else, but it might be a contender for "best CGI and/or Special Effects".

I'd reluctantly recommend this and suggest it mainly to audiophiles and home theatre freaks.
Reviewer Score: 6