"What smog? It's a harmless mist!"
Feng Li, Bin Wang, and Yimou Zhang, 2002

#5, 2004 Skandies

So, here we have a movie that is unashamedly pro-tyranny. It's from China. I can't wait for the sequel, in which it turns out that the characters' magical powers stem from constant inhalation of a thick haze of invigorating industrial pollutants.

I'll give Hero this — pretty much every frame is eye-poppingly gorgeous. Consider Pattern 3 fulfilled. We're talking about a movie in which a pair of beautiful women in bright gossamer robes spinning through the air as a kaleidoscope of autumn leaves swirl around them is one of the low-key parts. Unfortunately, we're also talking about a movie in which those women are trying to stab each other to death. Because it's a martial arts movie. And as I noted in my Kill Bill writeup a few years back, I think the fundamental concept of the martial arts genre — ie, the aestheticization of violence — is abhorrent. Violence is bad, mmkay? Therefore I'm going to object to anything that tries to make it more palatable.

I mean, what kind of world are we living in when you have a popular genre, martial arts, dedicated to making the spectacle of people trying to kill each other as pretty as possible, and at the same time you have an even more popular genre, porn, dedicated to taking what is inherently one of the most wonderful, uplifting experiences in life and making it grotesque? Imagine if we switched things up: made violent films on a twenty-dollar budget by getting heroin addicts to hit each other in the face with shovels in front of a camcorder, and spent tens of millions of dollars on thrillingly choreographed scenes of incredibly beautiful people pleasuring each other.

You'd even have the fringe benefit that it would make for a more difficult segue into the argument that it's okay to raze a few countries in the service of building an empire.

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