'Dynasty Warriors' Review: Netflix movie on video game a visual treat but storytelling falls flat
Making a live-action movie on a popular video game series is always tricky. As soon as the movie is announced, fans would be closely following all the updates and will criticize the makers if they find anything which is not true to the original story.
However, recent movies like ‘Sonic the Hedgehog' and ‘Pokemon Detective Pikachu’ have been really successful because of their impeccable source material. There have been many big-budget adaptations of movies that have come out in recent years and the latest film to join the bandwagon is ‘Dynasty Warriors’, a movie based on the highly popular video game series of the same name.
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It is an adaptation of the Japanese hack-and-slash video game that has spanned over 24 years and 15 consoles. The movie was originally shot in 2017, but could not be released due to financial reasons. It finally released in 2021 in China and now has made its way to Netflix for the international audience.
Director Roy Chow wanted to make the movie to honor Luo Guanzhong’s novel ‘Romance of the Three Kingdoms’, and the video game series that has created a lot of impact in the gaming industry. Sadly, he could not achieve any of those achievements. The movie is visually stunning and the cinematography by Tse Chungto will surely blow your mind. Despite being a visual treat, the movie falls flat when it comes to storytelling.
The story follows the journey of heroes like Liu Bei (Tony Yang), Guan Yu (Han Geng), and Zhang Fei (Justin Cheung) trying to overthrow a warlord they once saved. Meanwhile, Cao Cao (Wang Kai), a ruthless man and wannabe assassin, is also on the run for trying to take down the same man. They navigate through forests and many kingdoms to finally come face to face with the warlord. However, they would have to go past the warlord’s general and legendary fighter Lu Bu (Louis Koo).
The biggest problem with the movie is its timing. The film had a lot to cover in a short duration and hence, had to cut a lot of things. That’s why all the character-defining tragedies do not look as tragic as they should. On the other hand, people might not be able to understand the tonal shifts in the movie as well. In some scenes, people will be mesmerized by the background music being true to the historical tone of the movie and suddenly, they will be introduced to electric guitars and bad lighting effects which will make them wonder if this is the same movie that they were watching like 15 minutes ago.
As far as acting is concerned, the main star cast is good. Louis Koo as Lu Bu is riveting and is way ahead of all his co-stars. Whenever he arrives on the screen as the legendary warrior, something special happens. Wang Kai is excellent as Cao Cao, and shares fine chemistry with a solid Tony Yang as Liu Bei. Another actor who will impress you is Carina Lau, who plays the Master of the Sword Castle. Even though it is a cameo appearance, she will blow you away by showing what a fine talent she is.
Most of the movie is about action and men trying to fight each other. There are a lot of battle sequences and those who have played the game, know that the game has actually made a name of itself because of its epic battle sequences. One of the best scenes of the movie is its opening scene where we see Liu Bei (Tony Yang) and his two blood brothers, Guan Yu (Han Geng) and Zhang Fei (Justin Cheung), helping Han official Dong Zhuo (Lam Suet) suppress the Yellow Turban Rebellion. The first 10 minutes of the movie make you realize that it is going to be a roller coaster ride with more of such extraordinary battle scenes.
Viewers do get to see a lot of battles, but a lot of them are totally let done by CGI. The final battle between the trio and Lu Bu turned out to really bad because of bad CGI work. The actors try their best to let the world know the hard work they are doing, but it seems the director had something else in mind.
All in All, the movie is visually stunning and wants to get things right. However, it is completely let down by messy storytelling and bad casting. The movie’s narrative also gets compromised by its jolting tonal shifts and poor CGI.
Although, the movie ends on a cliffhanger and Roy Chow has perfectly set up the movie for a sequel, it is a gamble that might not work.
'Dynasty Warriors' is currently streaming on Netflix.