I'm not gonna go into the story; needs to be watched a couple of times. Awesome cast chemistry though! China's first try with 3-D is, meh, interesting. Flying Swords is Tsui Hark's remake — Semi-Sequal? Re-imagining? — to his 1992 New Dragon Gate Inn, which itself is a remake of the 1966/67 Taiwanese film Dragon Inn/Dragon Gate Inn.
I enjoyed '66 Dragon Inn and '92 New Dragon Gate Inn fight scenes. I admire Flying Swords' attempt at them. Just my bias; it is sad and lacks panache. Here Be wire-fu! Even more atrocious is the over-use of CG. I fast-forwarded through most of it. I've seen American Kung-Fu B movies with sharper, tighter, more entertaining fight choreography. I.E when a character is climbing a scaffolding injured, blind-folded and in full, pleated Imperial dress uniform, he seem to slither up as if greased. Little things like that kept kicking me out of immersion.
The set and costuming is top-notch, as always. All Tsui Hark's films always look authentic, even if the period details aren't always correct, it is always, well, detailed. The main cast is very good looking, including Jet Li. He's not seen much, then again, his age is probably catching up fast to his joints. When he's on screen unsurprisingly he's not as fluid and "snappy". I expect wire-fu for him but the massive amounts of CG during the fights? Ridiculous and annoying.
Props to Zhou Xun's portrayal of the composed and alluring mysterious swords"man" Ling Yanqiu. I'm 10 again, watching Swordsman II with Brigitte Lin as the evil eunuch sorcerer Dongfang Bubei (AKA Invincible Asia.) I couldn't believe Xun is NOT Lin despite the characters they portray being nothing alike. When she speaks I forget her looks. Her voice is deep for an Asian woman. It made me shiver. She's the reason why I'm going to watch Cloud Atlas, her Hollywood debut.
The latest eunuch is also incredibly beautiful. I kept rewinding because Chen Kun's portrayal of both the "high eunuch" Yu Huatian and the gold thief Wind Blade is amazing. Huatian's every movement is a languid threat and he fights with polished violence, elegant even when he's breaking several sword blades apart to fling at the protagonists with a flick of a wrist. He contrasts sharply with Wind Blade who is noticeably tanner, scruffier and brash.
3 stars for effort.