Action Movie Fanatix Review: Zu Warriors

Master The Sword.  Rule The Universe.

Starring: Eric Cheng, Cecilia Cheung, Louis Koo, Patrick Tam, Kelly Lin, Wu Jing, Sammo Hung, Zhang Zi Yi

Martial Arts Director: Yuen Wo Ping

Director: Tsui Hark

2001  |  80 Minutes  |  PG-13

“The future has yet to be written.  Its not for us to know.” – Dawn

I picked up Zu Warriors, having never heard of it, and read that it had Sammo Hung and Zhang Zi Yi in it and that it was directed by Tsui Hark AND that it featured martial arts choreography by the great Yuen Wo Ping.  I knew that I had to buy this movie and that it just had to be great.  Not even close.

Zu Warriors takes place in the Zu mountains which are somewhere between Heaven and Earth.  A demon, Onyx, attacks Zu and the Zu leader, White Lion (Sammo Hung) gathers a group of immortals to fight back Onyx, ultimately deciding that the only way to defeat him will be to combine two legendary weapons, the Heaven Sword and the Thunder Sword, to create the Infinity Sword.  Zhang Zi Yi’s character, Joy, is a human who is able to see into the Zu realm and provides the narrative for the story.

Zhang Zi Yi’s narrative is supposed to set up the basis for the story but does a weak job in pulling the viewer in.  Why simply tell me a story when you could show me?

I often have a hard time with mystical Chinese stories about gods and demons and the like.  They are supposed to be deep and have a lot of tradition behind them.  I am not well versed in Chinese mythology or any other traditions that would go into creating a story like this but too often these stories come off as cheesy or hokey and Zu Warriors is no different.

The storyline is nothing original or even remotely interesting but that isn’t the only issue.  The movie quickly introduces us to a lot of different immortals giving us only a brief second to try to figure out who each of these characters are.  Immortals have names like Blue Wolf and Red Hawk but for the most part have nothing overtly related to that color or animal other than Red Hawk having mechanical wings that are only sometimes visible.  It doesn’t really matter though as some “immortals” die and some become the heroes of the story but none are original enough to stand out from the next.

Villains are an important part of what makes an action movie good or in this case bad.  Onyx, the main villain is originally shown as a giant skull made up of hundreds of smaller skulls which flies through the air and basically just smashes into things to kill them.  Once Onyx retreats to the Blood Cavern (think a small generic version of hell) he takes on a human form… if that human had stolen his armor from the Power Rangers’ enemy, Goldar.  When a demon possesses one of the immortals, the immortal gains a large phallic face which protrudes from their forehead and taunts them.

Zu Warriors relies FAR too heavily on iffy special effects rather than letting a guy like Yuen Wo Ping do his thing.  Most fight scenes are carried out in 100% CGI which looks about as believable as anything done in American movies 15 years prior.  The immortals use weapons like the Heaven Sword and the Thunder Sword – neither looks much like a sword and are made completely of CGI.  While attempting to create the Infinity Sword two immortals simply fly through the air and smash their CGI weapons together to create a single more powerful CGI weapon.

The music is cheap sounding.  If you told me it was sampled from a Sony Playstation RPG, I wouldn’t even question it.

The Good???  There isn’t much.  There is one good non-CGI sword fight scene at about the 50 minute mark where you finally see Yuen Wo Ping’s influence.  You also finally get the chance to see how great the detail is on the non-CGI weapons.  They actually look fantastic and made me wish that the Thunder Sword had simply been a metal sword in the shape of a lightning bolt and that the immortals didn’t fly through the air to fight the demons, rather they had well choreographed fights on the ground.  Seems simple enough to me and would have made Zu Warriors much more enjoyable.

All in all, Zu Warriors just plain isn’t good.  Anyone who tells you otherwise is probably a fan of Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon and pretty much anything with seizure inducing flashing lights.  I spent the, what should have been short, 80 minutes just waiting for the final battle so that this movie would finally end.