TORONTO: Zhang Ziyi, Yuen Woo-Ping's Latest "Banquet" Not Very Fulfilling

by | September 13, 2006 | Comments

Zhang Ziyi and action director Yuen Woo-Ping last worked together in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," a movie which helped change audience perception that martial arts movies can be artful and open the door for similar movies such as "Hero" and "House of Flying Daggers." Their latest collaboration, "The Banquet," looks just as good as "Crouching Tiger," but the film is undermined by a story element that’s over-used in recent wuxia epics from China. More on that later.

Let’s start with the craftsmanship on "The Banquet." It’s impeccable. I give the people who worked on the visuals an A, maybe even an A+. You will not find a single frame in this film that wouldn’t make a great wallpaper. The costumes and sets, which are meticulously designed, look amazing. The locations are appropriately picturesque. The two lead actresses even become part of the eye candy. Some of the cinematography look like it came straight from "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." The effects work, mostly used to show off the grandness of the palace, is solid for a Chinese production.

Now here’s my major beef with the movie – "Banquet" is another wuxia epic with a love triangle. There’s one in "Hero," "House of Flying Daggers," "Seven Swords," and "The Promise." That said, of the bunch, including "The Banquet," "Hero" is most successful in its usage. But enough is enough already. Doesn’t China have any other types of stories to tell? China shouldn’t be banning directors like Lou Ye from making controversial films; it should be banning the love triangle from the wuxia genre. Please, no more. The story, about one woman’s ascension to the top of the imperial ladder, is straight-forward enough and easy to follow, but there’s really not enough here for a feature length film.

There’s also not a single sympathetic character in the film. We’re supposed to be rooting for the late Emperor’s son Wu Luan (Dan Wu) to avenge his father’s death and become the rightful ruler, but he spends most of his time brooding. I’m not sure if Empress Wan (Zhang Ziyi) is sleeping her way to the top out of pure ambition or out of necessity or both. Either way, it’s difficult to sympathize with an Empress who secretly lusts for her step-son. The Grand Marshall’s family is pretty dysfunctional as well. The brother lusts after his sister, who is in love with Wu Luan. It’s all very incestuous. I don’t have any problems keeping up with who’s lusting after whom, but the movie doesn’t make me want to care about any part of it.

For a film in which the action is directed by legendary fight choreographer Yuen Woo-Ping, the fight scenes are pretty tepid and unimaginative. Zhang Ziyi doesn’t have a single fight scene. She spends most of her screen time in lavish costumes.

In summary, “The Banquet” is a visually stunning film, but I wish the visual elements are employed in the service of a better story. That’s pretty much what other critics are saying too. Variety’s Derek Elley thinks the "main problem is Zhang, who carries herself with all the bearing of a power-hungry, lovelorn empress but doesn’t project the necessary charisma of an evil queen." The Hollywood Reporter’s Kirk Honeycutt says "The Banquet" wastes its "astonishing" and "strikingly beautiful" production "with a cliched, long-winded, logic-busting, overacted film that at times seems like a parody of the martial arts genre." Screen Daily’s Dan Fainaru thinks it’s "way too long for its own good, and may prove quick-lived at box offices after initial attention."

"The Banquet" is directed by Feng Xiaogang, China’s most commercially successful director. He helmed "A World Without Thieves" (Andy Lau) and "Cell Phone," both blockbusters in China.

Tag Cloud

Nominations Walt Disney Pictures Interview VICE Thanksgiving talk show dceu HBO vampires FX mutant Tumblr disaster Music Britbox romance miniseries American Society of Cinematographers YA Country National Geographic Chilling Adventures of Sabrina politics Rocky DGA richard e. Grant Summer Superheroes CW Seed The CW Awards Tour casting historical drama ratings Spike Quiz spider-man period drama CNN ABC TLC Rock IFC Films Teen 20th Century Fox Calendar Hulu NYCC Captain marvel zombies jamie lee curtis A&E Adult Swim Stephen King 2018 hist Opinion Sony Pictures diversity 2016 The Arrangement 2015 BBC Paramount ESPN doctor who science fiction Trailer Sundance Now Pet Sematary Polls and Games 007 travel Columbia Pictures Year in Review Toys Oscars Universal Lucasfilm dragons social media LGBT spinoff SDCC Shondaland USA adventure Schedule thriller docudrama Ellie Kemper New York Comic Con San Diego Comic-Con Pride Month game show Ghostbusters Reality TV Land History political drama Christmas television Women's History Month TNT FOX TruTV facebook Anna Paquin Box Office Biopics Apple Heroines Crackle OWN VH1 crossover The Witch Trivia ABC Family Pop Song of Ice and Fire Comics on TV Writers Guild of America animated Countdown Character Guide Extras Lifetime Ovation Emmy Nominations elevated horror ITV Fall TV Mystery Bravo Winter TV DC streaming service MSNBC comic Holidays Winners Vudu Brie Larson Chernobyl TCA 2017 police drama Comedy Central Creative Arts Emmys E3 Red Carpet GLAAD 2019 Lionsgate composers FXX TCM Acorn TV Photos Animation Mary poppins Cosplay LGBTQ sequel cults serial killer BET Starz anthology Mindy Kaling El Rey Martial Arts comiccon Kids & Family Spectrum Originals Awards Reality Competition natural history 24 frames Watching Series Black Mirror Musical Nickelodeon Best and Worst Cartoon Network Set visit Infographic Super Bowl cats Epix Amazon Prime cinemax Fantasy RT21 psychological thriller anime crime Tomatazos strong female leads Video Games WGN Tarantino Rocketman robots 45 blaxploitation Sneak Peek true crime Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Pirates what to watch AMC Mudbound X-Men based on movie Marathons Masterpiece transformers YouTube Red Premiere Dates psycho TCA Film Festival green book theme song Sci-Fi NBC streaming space Comedy BBC America Cannes nature USA Network Shudder zombie Amazon Showtime adaptation Food Network Star Trek unscripted Sundance SXSW PaleyFest CMT First Look CBS All Access Horror supernatural crime thriller Podcast Logo 21st Century Fox Musicals Netflix Certified Fresh Mary Tyler Moore war Valentine's Day Marvel spy thriller Election Western sports toy story harry potter festivals See It Skip It TIFF Drama Rom-Com SundanceTV medical drama dc technology cops DC Universe YouTube Premium biography Paramount Network Superheroe President justice league boxoffice GoT award winner Fox News APB Trophy Talk sitcom Elton John crime drama 2017 MTV GIFs Comic Book CBS Nat Geo IFC Emmys TV Syfy aliens zero dark thirty teaser MCU DC Comics Dark Horse Comics golden globes Mary Poppins Returns Grammys Warner Bros. RT History Star Wars witnail DirecTV Spring TV Action finale E! Pixar cooking binge PBS Freeform Disney Channel Esquire dramedy TBS Disney singing competition discovery mockumentary