Red Cliff Pt. 2

Release Year: 2009
Starring: Tony Leung, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Zhang Fengyi, Chang Chen, Hu Jun, Zhao Wei, Lin Chi-Ling, Nakamura Shido, You Yong.
Directed by: John Woo
Written by: John Woo, Chen Han, Sheng Heyu, based on the Chronicle of The Three Kingdoms.
IMDB rating: 7.2

Why o' why filmmakers sometimes just could not stick to the original story when adapting it to the big screens? I'm a big fan of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms novel, and it turned out that watching Red Cliff part 1 & 2 became a huge torment for me. If John Woo wanted to rewrite the novel, just invent a new stories and characters, just don't brutally slaughter the original story.

I've seen the series, I've seen the Three Kingdoms (starred by Andy Lau) and then there was that Legendary Prime Minister Zhuge Liang (starred by Adam Cheng) wuxia series, and then this Red Cliff 2-part flicks, and only one (the Romance of the Three Kingdoms series) that managed to properly portray the novel. The rest of them were craps.

In the novel, Zhou Yu died after the end of the Battle of Red Wall, he tried to 'indirectly' kill Zhuge Liang because he sensed that Zhuge Liang was a dangerous person to be let alive. Several times Zhuge Liang outsmarted him, even after the battle was over, and every time he did that, Zhou Yu's wound (from arrow shot) got worsened. The final one was when Zhuge Liang outsmarted him during territorial dispute after the battle of Red Wall.

Sun Shangxiang's espionage activities were non-existent in the original novel. She was only mentioned briefly in the novel and nothing more. The attempt to exploit the character was rather overblown. Why would she could be spying Cao Cao's army while there was not a single spy sent to the Shu and Wu's armies? Cao Cao surely not that stupid.

Xiao Qiao never set foot at Cao Cao's camp. In the novel her part was small, only mentioned briefly. Sun Quan and Zhou Yu didn't rush to the front line during the battle of Red Wall, they stayed in the distance giving command and watching the battle but not going to the battle fighting directly.

Cao Cao was not cornered in his base, but sent fleeing for his life but repeatedly ambushed by Liu Bei's generals. Zhao Yun made the first interception, then Zhang Fei, and the last one was Guan Yu. Apparently, Zhuge Liang arranged their positions so that Guan Yu would be the third one to ambush so that Guan Yu could repay his past debt to Cao Cao. In the end, as predicted by Zhuge Liang, Guan Yu let Cao Cao go.

Huang Gai's trick of self-torture and Pang Tong's attempt to persuade Cao Cao into linking his ships with chains also absent from the movie. Cai Mao and Zhang Yun were solely executed for being suspected of betraying Cao Cao, not because they fell for Zhuge Liang's trick to obtain arrows. Zhuge Liang didn't explain how he managed to do all his weather predictions in details, too. Liu Bei also didn't pretend to leave the alliance, because his army never camped alongside the Wu's army in the first place. Besides, based on Liu Bei's character, such pretense would surely incite suspicion from Cao Cao. Liu Bei would never abandon any alliances because he was considered as a man of his words. Perhaps there were other discrepancies in the movies, but I think I've mentioned the big ones.

Now, to review this from a rather neutral point of view, the movie was indeed ambitious. The battle scenes were colossal, but there were nothing new (I still think the battle scenes from the Lord of the Rings trilogy to be better ones). Acting, however, was rather too focused on several characters like Zhou Yu, Sun Shangxiang, and Cao Cao. The others were only given smaller portions. Yet the acts from the three were usual, not spectacular. Takeshi Kaneshiro, however, was not suitable to play Zhuge Liang, because I think he lacked that cunning look. Although this movie failed to portray the novel accurately, the cast should be based on the personality of the characters from the novel. For a person who perhaps masterminded the battle of Red Wall, Zhuge Liang should have been portrayed as a calm, harmless, but cunning beyond compare. The actor from the series managed to portray him perfectly (forgot his name). Liu Bei should have been portrayed as charming and merciful character. Unfortunately, You Yong could not do that.

Beautiful landscapes also added a plus to the movie, reminding me of Crouching Tiger and Hidden Dragon. The plot, when I regard this as 'not based on anything', was adequate. It could have been great if only the Sun Shangxiang sidestories were put off.

For final score, I'd give the ENTIRE movie as a whole (part 1 & 2) a 6.5. Better than the first part only, because of the battle scenes. Yet other than that, nothing spectacular here.
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