The Emperor’s Sword Takes a Slice at Chinese History

9 Nov

The Emperor's Sword Film Review – Drop The SpotlightBy Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Well GO USA
Available to stream or purchase on Amazon USA

Not to be confused with the Warhammer 40k weapon of different renown, The Emperor’s Sword (乱世之定秦剑) is a quasi-historical film which went from one streaming service in China to Hi-Yah! Network to home video release. There’s no bonus material to explain the finer details to which the tale comes from, and as for how much of what’s presented is real depends on how well one knows their Chinese history.

This tale takes place during the Qin Dynasty where “The Seven Gentlemen” (The Virtuous, The Wisdom, The Polite, The Valor, The Brave, The Vigor, and The Wise) are brought together to guard a sword that’s fabled to bring peace to the land. But to prevent the wrong people from taking absolute rule, this blade was split into two. If the parts ever reunite, problems are going to rise. Meng Tian (a real general) will have to deal with the mess. He protects one half of this blade. Elsewhere, Zhao Gao (also real) makes a grasp for power. He kills the current emperor (fictionalized) and his son, and with no surprise, the only survivor, Xue escapes with the sword. She barely survives and what we get is a merry chase through parts of China.

This film’s action sequences are high octane enough to make me stay interested. The story itself could use a bit of rewriting to reveal how the actual history unfolded than show how Meng survived for as long as he did. The forces sent to hunt Xue down are relentless. If only I knew the Ancient History of China better, I could make a deeper look and say what’s right or wrong from the perspective of the politics going on. There’s not much offered in this department and what we have here is mostly an action film. One detail I appreciated is the detail in how the emporer’s palace is surrounded with moats of the toxic mercury, and Xue is warned not to stray too close. His tomb, according to sources, was never excavated for that reason, as this metal is everywhere to ensure his ‘immortality.’

The Emperor's Sword (乱世之定秦剑, 2020) chinese wuxia action trailer - YouTube

We have moments where the film is too modern by copying the effects style from The Matrix. The slow motion effects highlight those with the sixth sense to know when someone is shooting at them. The better battles are with the camera moving around the action in one take. It’s rare to get this style of cinematography these days and the fluid motion mimics the liquid metal theme buried in this tale. The later fights cut the action, and it has to be stitched together.

Much of this film is done via a green screen and there are plenty of scenes where it’s noticeable. The end-credits reveal the layers of film production as this film is put together. Knowing how this movie was made doesn’t ruin the mystique. In what I could tell, Zhao’s bitter attitude grew from how his family was defeated when the Qin family came to power, and he shows just how terrible a ruler he truly is. I’m glad his time was brief. I’d hate to think of what this country would be like should his family ruled for much longer.

3½ Stars out of 5

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