Hero - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Hero Reviews

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½ April 26, 2017
Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language and starring Jet Li, Hero sounded like a higher standard of martial arts film than the actor's average piece.

Hero may have higher production values than many of Jet Li's wuxia films, but I certainly wouldn't say it is at a higher grade. It has larger ambitions and a more epic scale, but the overall result of the final product is very much the same as his earlier works. Hero is the kind of story which would excite audiences familiar with the story it tells as it presents a historical tale with a glamourously stylish technique of filmmaking, but the narrative fails to reach the height of the Zhang Yimou's visionary ambitions.
The story's historical accuracy and overall reality ends up rather fragmented by the intentionally fantastical action scenes. It's difficult to conclude if Hero is a tale of reality or fantasy because the story unfolds like a legend being passed down through the ages that has become glamourized by each generation to the point that the protagonist is a magic man. Given that the story is only inspired by the tale of Jing Ke's attempted assassination of Ying Zheng rather than pretending to be a biographical piece this is forgivable, but the attempts to tie the story into history just get in the way of a film which could have just been a fun action film. It's clear that Zhang Yimou takes Hero very seriously because he wants to engage audiences with the themes of honour and accomplishment in martial arts, but attempts to reach viewers with all this are done through extended periods of rambling with the characters. Hero unfolds as a feature which simply oscillates back and forth between characters fighting and characters talking an endless hypothetical discussion without doing much else in the process. With all this going on at such a slow pace, Hero just proves to drag on without ever developing much narrative ground. I honestly felt like I was just rewatching the same kind of material already explored in Jet Li's Once Upon a Time in China films (1991-1997), except that the focus was far more scattered amid the numerous characters this time around despite the fact that every character was more a representation of some kind of ideal rather than an actual individual.
With Hero, I really found the whole experience perplexing because the film really makes an effort to be serious and intelligent yet also disregards reality or a consistent narrative in attempting to do so. I'm not sure if the film is meant to be a surreal one or meant to be the cinematic equivalent of a poem on martial arts culture, but either way there is not really enough of a story to offer a sufficiently cinematic experience. Perhaps Hero earned a high rank of acclaim due to the popularization of wuxia cinema by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) around the time of Hero's release, but the imbalance of tone made the experience too convoluted to consistently track and too dull for me to care all that much. I could tell that there was a lot of passion in the project from both sides of the camera because the actors are clearly dedicated to the material. But despite a dedicated array of performances from the cast, there is really no room for character development in the narrative. If characters aren't getting into fights, they're going into poetic monologues while remaining completely stationary. Its as if Hero is an audiobook with sporadic fight choreography in there, and one which keeps changing subjects with each chapter while lacking a narrative sufficient enough to tie them all together. There are messages in the screenplay for Hero, but they don't come with a story or any real characters and that's a true disappointment.
Nevertheless, Hero never comes up short with the visuals. The scenery and production design creates a brilliance universe for the narrative while the cinematography captures the scope of its natural beauty with ease. Zhang Yimou proves himself as a clear cut visionary most of all during the fight scenes where the choreography unfolds with such consistent glory without the burden of editing. Occasionally the cinematography shoots everything a little too close for the full spectacle of it all to be captured, but the actors continue to perform with precision throughout it all. Due to the heavy use of strings the material isn't necessarily the kind for action junkies, but it is a powerful spectacle of performance art for those with a strong appreciation for the artistic virtue of martial arts. Hero's most valuable moments come from the action scenes as they offer a firm display of Zhang Yimou's culturally enrichening style of filmmaking.
And even though Hero comes up short on character development, Jet Li has no problem embracing the film's artistic merits. Jet Li remains confident and calm the entire time as he dances his way through the fight scenes with pure speed and strength. His physical capabilities as a martial arts transition into a high calibre performance unlike anything he has done before. It's a style he touched upon in the Once Upon a Time in China films, but far more performance-oriented this time than combat-focused. Jet Li brings something different to every fight, and seeing him pitted against Donnie Yen proves a nostalgic reunion for the time of his breakthrough role in Once Upon a Time in China II (1992). And when it comes to the line delivery, Jet Li speaks everything with a deeply impassioned understanding of the meaning behind it. Even if I personally couldn't keep track of everything happening in Hero, Jet Li's tenacious grip on the deeper dimensions within the story themes offers him a chance to deliver a performance like never before. And with strong line delivery and clear-cut focus, he delivers. Jet Li leads Hero with enough strength to live up to the title.

Hero pits Jet Li's strong charisma and Zhang Yimou's visual expertise together, but the overly hypothetical and convoluted narrative leaves a story as underdeveloped as the characters.
April 8, 2017
The physics would have been unforgivable had the story and cinematography not been astounding. Love this movie, and recommend to any and everyone.
½ April 5, 2017
Bursting with visual beauty and mind-blowing action, this is a frenetic and stunningly composed kung fu movie that keeps you sitting and guessing.
April 2, 2017
What a great movie! Beautiful!
March 20, 2017
It's a visually beautiful film, yet very repetitive. Just the same fight sequences over and over but in different colours.
½ March 7, 2017
Some of the most beautiful cinematography ever.
½ March 5, 2017
Disappointed, expected a lot more story with all the high ratings
Great visual effects but weak storyline and what lesson do you learn?
No one sticks to their true principles
Pure fantasy
February 19, 2017
Hero is visually amazing, but when it comes to the story if fails.
February 14, 2017
It took me three viewings of this movie to realize the scope of what it is trying to say and what it is saying.
This movie is a masterwork of Martial Arts choreography and wire-work, cinematography, color scheming, political commentary, theme building, character development, and narritive. All of those things by themselves can make a great movie but in this movie they are used in conjunction so brilliantly that they bring the film to the highest level of achievement.

This movie is beautiful, puzzling, heartbreaking, and challenging.
Watch this movie. If it doesn't make sense, wait a year or two, watch it again. Then wait another few years and watch it again.
½ February 14, 2017
Wow! If I didn't think that one word would serve as a lame review I would stop there, because that's how I felt when I was done watching Hero. I was in awe of this film for two key reasons: First of all, I simply adore this style of story-telling. I love the way it continues to retell bits of the story, but changes the context or point of view each time. Not only does it keep me on the edge of my seat wondering what will be revealed as the true story, but it also reminds me of real life and the way there are multiple viewpoints to every story that is told. The second amazing aspect of Hero was the visuals. I could not get over how Zhang Yimou utilized color themes in order to differentiate each telling of the story. Between remarkable costuming, great sets, and perfect environments each scene was a site to behold. The action was superb, and I loved how the filmmakers knew when to utilize slow motion. This film features the gravity-defying style of martial arts that became world-renowned in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and I think it fits since most of this film is like a fairy tale. I swear, despite my personal difficulty with foreign language films, this could easily become one of my favorite movies of all time if I get to watch it a few more times. I highly recommend it to anyone who's interested.
February 10, 2017
One of the most beautiful movie
December 17, 2016
A brilliant use of colors and acting, Hero isn't a film as much as it is a work of breathtaking art. Light on the dialogue, it is a visual feast and merits multiple viewings.
December 6, 2016
Very beautiful story. Very beautiful pictures. One of the best Chinese movies of all time.
December 6, 2016
A beautiful, complex film that benefits from careful viewing. The use of color establishes clear themes for each retelling of the core story while subtly weaving the disparate versions together. While passion might dominate the red portion of the story, it also appears in the other segments is less obvious ways. Another strong point (for this viewer) was the ambiguity of the film's plot. Any of the different versions of the stories could be true or false - what matters is the titular hero's choice.
TL;DR: Visually beautiful film that tells a story about self sacrifice, passion and choice.
November 17, 2016
Hero showed me not just epic, but elegant and romantic martial art scenes that will forever stay in my memory. The battles, embedded in an engaging multidimensional story line, ultimately served me one wholesome spiritual experience of a kind of majestic love for all.
November 3, 2016
Hero isn't the most original in terms of storytelling as it uses the structure of 'Rashomon' and some fantasy elements of 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon', but what it lacks in originality, it more than compensates with a moving feel to it, a thematically rich storyline, mostly terrific action sequences, many memorable scenes, excellent direction from Zhang Yimou and absolutely gorgeous cinematography with sumptuous costumes and a wonderful use of colors.
½ October 22, 2016
beautiful and spectacular
October 12, 2016
Truly a masterpiece,looking at the budget and the quality of the film ,it is clear that it was put to good use citing that it is one of the most expensive films in terms of budget.A number of factors stood out for me,first how the cinematographer Doyle manages to use the eyes in the characters to communicate with limited conversation is just out of this world.Another outstanding factor is that,in comparison to other films particularly the stunts you realise that they use a lot of moving shots to capture the martial arts unlike in Hero where the scene is on a wide but the ease and flow with which they perform the art is just superb.I think this is one of the best films by Zhang Yimou and would encourage any other film enthusiast to watch
October 11, 2016
Hero as one of the most highly budgeted movies ,to me what got my attention is the use of music and how it shows the connection with martial arts. In the first fight scene is where we see the connection of music and martial arts in detail in the whole film we also hear how the action flows with the music.
The cinematographer also used splashes of glamorous color in the film, in the fight scenes with the yellow leaves was just amazing. The fight scene on the lake was also an exceptional piece while they dodged each other's swords on air; we get to understand the art in martial arts.
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