Jet Li’s “Fearless” has all the action you’d expect from a martial arts epic, but the story is somewhat less than epic. Visually and aesthetically the film is easy on the eyes. The props and scenery seem very appropriate. The costumes for the Westerners and Meiji-era Japanese are dead on. The story, however, is very formulaic.
In terms of fights, this film doesn’t disappoint. If you’re looking for some very well choreographed martial arts, you’ll get your fill. There is just about every kind of fight you can think of, from swords to sticks to spears to good old fashioned bare hands, of course. You’ll even get to see some interesting fights between different nationalities’ combat styles.
Upon watching the previews, I was excited to see a film that included the cultural significance of a Chinese form of martial arts, wushu, and its impact on the rest of the world. It showed how wushu is a cultural achievement that rivals even the West. The film also showed the spirit and ideology behind this form of martial arts as just that – art.
Unfortunately, I was disappointed to find a typical – and American – plot involving a young boy who arrogantly wants to defeat everyone he can.
Of course, as the plot unfolds, he goes through the rather archetypal hero’s story, learning the true nature of martial arts and realizing the error of his foolish youth. Sadly, that last statement hasn’t ruined anything in the film, as it is relatively easy to see where the movie is going from the get-go.
In terms of the broader political significance, the film broaches the subject. It seems that Japan is not given a very favorable treatment by the film. Considering the political history between the China and Japan, I can understand why.
However, expect to see some of the old resentments between the two nations present themselves in this movie. The director did choose to show that not all Japanese are evil, but the leaders of the Meiji government were not spared at all.
Interestingly enough, the West is shown as being much more favorable than Japan and, considering how heavily the plot and film style draws from Western culture, it is no surprise.
All in all, I found this movie entertaining and well made, which counts for a lot. It was beautifully shot and put together, it had some beautiful fight scenes and it had some of the turbulent politics of the time. However, I think the film could have done more. Less of a focus on the personal struggle to realize what the audience already knows, and more of a focus on the political, social, and ideological upheavals of the time period could have pushed the film into the realm of greatness.
Silverman is a member of the Film Interest Floor.
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