All Power To The People
- action: the battles transcend vulgar violence as spirit-like warriors nimbly jump, flip, fly, and float like mythological figures. The director spares us the bloody gore. Instead, the pounding percussion instruments elevate the martial arts into pure chorography, splendid dancing.
- romance: parallel love stories, but the death of the old generation might open the path to happiness for the new generation
- Chow Yun-Fat, as in Hong Kong 1941 and Anna and the King, once again embodies the spirit and virtue of the nation. This time, as Li Mu Bai, he incarnates the noble sage-warrior of ancient China. Yet despite his perfect dutifulness, equanimity, wisdom and strength, he has one weakness: he cannot show his love to his beloved Yu Shu Lien until the moment of his death.
- Ziyi Zhang as Jen Yu is torn between conflicting loyalties to:
- her father's family, which she mostly rejects because she wants freedom from convention and an arranged marriage
- Jade Fox, a matriarch who rebels against traditional patriarchy
- Yu Shu Lien, her spiritual "sister," the woman warrior
- the Mongol warrior who showed her the simple, savage beauty of the desert
- Taoism: the admirable insight into how opposites are complementary; Li Mu Bai as warrior saying words of wisdom Jen Yu only expects from a monk; the almost endless dance of triumph and defeat, theft and recovery, wealth yet emptiness, the desert as place of spiritual and affectionate plenitude
- Western ideology: I can't prove it, but somehow there is a sense that the director was trying to pack a bit to much of something for everyone. Most disconcerting, perhaps, is that this hybrid cannot portray the "Orient" as the "Orient", but rather shows a battle of values that heroizes essentially Western values: individualism, women's rights. I'm 100% for equality, but a pattern in how Western media portrays the Orient does disturbs me. Whether its Disney's Mujan (a daughter who longs to be a warrior), Jen Yu (also the daughter who longs to be warrior), or the newscaster anchor-woman (Connie Chung). The West wants to free Islamic and Chinese womanhood. It's as if the West wants to justify the expoitation of Western capitalism by destroying traditional societies because they are not like the West for women's rights. Hence we don't have strong male Asians who survive: Li Mu Bai dies as soons as he admits he loves his beloved (so he won't reproduce), and you don't see strong Asian male role models, be it newscaster or otherwise. Surely Jackie Chan making karate chops is a reduction to the merely physical, like Ojo in the James Bond movie.
All in all, this film merits being seen two or even three times!