After viewing the trailer (I was already giggling at the 'romantic' scenes between Leon Lai and Kelly Chen), and reading its early reviews in Hong Kong, I was already expecting the worst from AN EMPRESS AND THE WARRIORS. Directed by Tony Ching Siu Tung (he often works as an action choreographer and is Zhang Yimou's frequent collaborator, working on the action scenes in HERO, HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS and CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER, he was also behind the badass martial arts scene in the godly Bollywood superhero flick KRRISH), starring Donnie Yen, Kelly Chen and Leon Lai, AN EMPRESS AND THE WARRIORS is the kind of film you need to avoid if you were seriously looking for a good film to watch.
Seriously, the trailer of THREE KINGDOMS: RESURRECTION OF THE DRAGON starring Andy Lau, Maggie Q (yummy) and Sammo Hung that played before EMPRESS had me even more excited than the entire film of the latter.
Yet I watched the film with wry amusement, seeing how Kelly Chen acted a storm with her perpetual frowning. And noting how out-of-place Leon Lai had often looked in period films (SEVEN SWORDS had already shown me that), and then waiting forward to another glorious Donnie Yen lovefest scene which have him looking more and more badasser (there are lots of scenes like that, the final battle scene left me in giggling fits despite its over-the-top pathos). It's almost like watching an in-joke unfold before my eyes. I didn't have a miserable time in the cinema, really.
Leon Lai and Donnie Yen seem to be in different films. One to deliver the farcical romantic subplot with Kelly Chen, the other to showcase his broody manliness in angsty and fighting scenes. Both of these guys seldom appear in the same scene together (only two scenes, I counted) Of course, Kelly Chen's empress character seems to suffer from multiple personality disorder too: With Leon, she's a lovesick fumbling schoolgirl, with Donnie, she's a tormented soul. My mind wandered a lot when watching the film, I mentally recasted the film, I suddenly thought of ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE, which, suddenly, to me, was very awesome compared to this, I then felt that I may have been a little unfair towards THE WARLORDS, since the film was really much more accomplished than this. But then, I realized that it was unfair of me to compare the film with those.
Silently, I felt a slight pang of regret that this film would be the last Chinese film I watch in the cinemas before going to Japan.
I have to say that the pacing of the film was relatively swift, something would always happen just when I was about to start feeling bored. I also have to admit that some of the shots were really nice to look at, almost like something from a Kelly Chen music video. It has good art direction, the armours looked cool (that's why I immediately took photos of them when I saw them being exhibited in Hong Kong) There's also an out of place cheesy pop love song thrown in during the much talked-about Titanic-esque hot-air balloon scene.
So nope, your life won't be any different if you miss this film.
Go read the Visitor's review on Twitch.
Now, the last paragraph after the trailer below is a spoiler, so skip it if you seriously want to watch the film without anything spoiled for you.
AN EMPRESS AND THE WARRIORS trailer
The only time I experienced emotions while watching the film is definitely Leon Lai's death. It was stupid. (my reaction was "WHAAAAT? HE'S GOING TO DIE NOW?????") I was expecting him to join in the last battle as well, in fact, throughout the final battle, I was expecting him to pop out to save the day. He never did. Jeez, at least Donnie Yen had a much more glorious death scene.