Flying Swords of Dragon Gate 3D Blu-ray Review
I think when Jet Li once proclaimed he was retiring from martial arts movies, FLYING SWORDS OF DRAGON GATE was exactly what he was talking about. We now know that Jet Li didn’t retire from martial arts films and this is another in a long line of forgettable films that rely way too heavily on wires and sloppy CGI when all they needed to do was to give their talented stars some good fight choreography and some outlandish costumes and let them do the rest.
The film is actually a sequel of sorts to the 1992 film DRAGON INN. Set three years after its predecessor, the film follows Zhao Gwai On (Jet Li) as he tries to protect a young Xun Zhou from the emperor’s men. Zhou is pregnant with the emperor’s baby and the emperor’s men have sworn to rid the country of any bastard children. Their quest eventually leads them to take shelter from an oncoming sandstorm at Dragon Gate, which is basically a hotel in the middle of the desert. Zhao and his men face off against the emperor’s men and a team of marauders. As it turns out, the hotel is a secret passageway to an ancient city of gold that opens up every 60 years.
If my weak attempt at a plot description sounds confusing, it’s because the plot is convoluted and unfocused. If you’re a fan of these types of fantasy/martial-arts films, then you know that sometimes the plots get out of hand and things get more complicated than they have to. With FLYING SWORDS OF DRAGON GATE, things start to unravel plot-wise in the third act as characters switch allegiances and everyone seems to be fighting each other. It does clear things up at the end (which is ripe for a sequel), but even then I still found myself having to retrace some of the events.
But these movies are more about martial arts and action than they are about plot and that’s where FLYING SWORDS OF DRAGON GATE really disappoints. I’ve been a fan of Jet Li’s for a long time and he has several Asian films that I consider the cream of the crop of martial arts movies. In this, he’s never given the chance to show off his masterful skills and instead, he’s relegated to twirling a sword in the air while CGI or wire stunts do everything else. It’s all done with a cheesy flare that I’ve grown to accept in these films, but not at the sacrifice of good martial arts.
I’m sure by now you know if you like Asian martial arts films, so your feelings about the genre will largely impact your opinion of this film. For me, I enjoy the martial arts aspect of the genre, but usually shy away from the fantasy element. This film relied too heavily on the fantasy aspect and ended up sacrificing some of the martial arts quality.
3D BLU-RAY REVIEW
I had heard that the 3D in FLYING SWORDS OF DRAGON GATE was impressive, but I left the film again disappointed. The 3D wasn’t utilized nearly as efficiently as I had hoped, with only a few scenes taking advantage of the technology. The frustrating thing is that there were plenty of moments that could have utilized the 3D and then failed to do so.
Video: The video presentation of FLYING SWORDS OF DRAGON GATE was nice, making use of the dark colors efficiently. However, when the CGI kicked in (such as the fight in the tornado), things became less impressive.
Audio: The audio was fine.
Making of Flying Swords of Dragon Gate Part 1 (4:46): This is just a short behind-the-scenes bit that shows us some scenes being rehearsed.
Making of Flying Swords of Dragon Gate Part 2 (9:15): Similar to the above featurette but gives a little more detail on the green screen and wire work footage used in the film.
Interviews with Cast and Filmmakers (20: 20): Just what it sounds like, this is a featurette showing interviews with the cast and crew.
Behind the Scenes (32:19): A decent featurette that gives some good footage but the audio is almost unbearable due to high winds.