This film, Warriors of Heaven and Earth (Tian di ying xiong) is heavy with swordplay throughout. It revolves around a caravan during China’s Tang Dynasty, in the western territories, that is carrying a sacred bone of the Buddha. The caravan, however, is just the setting, as the film follows several characters, each with different motives, including An, who plans to steal the bone.
Warriors of Heaven and Earth is an old-fashioned, conventional swordplay movie, heavily influenced by films like Seven Samurai. It also seems to have many western film influences including classic swashbuckling fare by Kirk Douglas, including Spartacus and the Vikings. Imagine Cecil B. DeMille with not nearly as many extras.
The film beautifully showcases China’s various and impressive movie locations. The cinematography by Zhao Fei (Small Time Crooks, Raise the Red Lantern, Sweet & Lowdown, The Emperor and the Assassin) is magnificent. The characters play against the desert background with raw color and vibrance.
This film is not for everyone, however it does highlight a style of filmmaking that has an attention to detail and grandeur, albeit maybe more-so than the actual times being depicted. If you like classic films like Ulysses and Cleopatra, you will really appreciate this movie.
Review by Rene Carson