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Film / The Promise (2005)

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Not your average wuxia
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The Promise is a 2005 epic fantasy film with Wuxia elements, directed by Chen Kaige (The Emperor and the Assassin), starring Jang Dong-gun (Taegukgi), Hiroyuki Sanada and Cecelia Cheung, loosely based on The Kunlun Slave, a romance novel written by Pei Xing during the Tang dynasty.

Qingcheng, a young orphan alone on a battlefield, makes a wish with the goddess Manshen, where she can escape poverty and grow up in a life of luxury, if she is willing to live the rest of her life without being able to find her true love.

Years later, Qingcheng (Cecelia Cheung) grows up into a concubine of the emperor, just as Imperial General Guangming (Hiroyuki Sanada) returns from a campaign warring with barbarian tribes. With the general, is his slave, Kunlun (Jang Dong-gun), who doesn't have any memories of his past and is seeking the memories of his long-forgotten family. At the same time, the traitorous Duke Wuhuan (Nicholas Tse) plans to take over the palace and the land.

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Contains examples for the following tropes:

  • Animal Stampede: The opening of the movie have General Guangming’s men unleashing a buffalo stampede on the barbarian horde, which is Lured into a Trap by Kunlun ands his fellow slaves.
  • Barbarian Tribe: The film opens with an epic battle scene between Guangming’s troops against a barbarian army, with Kunlun as the bait to lure the enemy forces into a trap.
  • Big Badass Battle Sequence: One that kickstarts the film after the opening titles, a battle between the barbarian horde and General Guangming’s army.
  • Body Double: General Guangming, wanting to be the saviour of the king, but also afraid of facing Duke Wuhuan directly, orders Kunlun to don his crimson armor and golden mask and perform the rescue in his stead.
  • Book-Ends: The film opens and ends with Qingcheng, as a child, wandering around an open plain where a battle had taken place earlier.
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  • Combat Hand Fan: Duke Wuhuan uses two of these as his Weapon of Choice, with its razor-sharp tip capable of slicing through flesh. He tends to Dual Wield them in fights, sometimes throwing one as a Homing Projectile while using the other as a weapon.
  • Cool Helmet: The awesome-looking spiked helmet General Guangming wears on him in his first battle scene.
  • Disappears into Light: Snow Wolf, Wuhuan’s number two, deliberately removes his own cape to expose himself to the sun, causing himself to disappear into light particles.
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: Duke Wuhuan, the main villain. Look at this still and try to think otherwise.
  • Epic Flail: General Guangming’s preferred weapon, which ends in a massive spiked ball. Although for some reason the ball appears to be made of rubber and bounces off its targets constantly, but is still lethal enough to kill its victims.
  • Feather Motif:
    • Qingcheng’s feathered robe, made from pure white dove feathers.
    • Duke Wuhuan prefers plenty of feather in his fashion as well, with large, fluffy feathers adorning his throne and robes.
  • Leave No Witnesses: Duke Wuhuan, after revealing he’s the one who usurped the throne, then kills eight of his own guards in the same room he was in.
  • Long-Haired Pretty Boy: Most of the named characters, including Duke Wuhuan, General Guangming and Kunlun.
  • Manly Tears: On General Guangming, a few times.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: The film opens with Qingcheng and Kunlun meeting as kids on a body-strewn battlefield.
  • Staff of Authority: Duke Wuhuan carries one of these, which is made of gold and whose tip ends in a shape of a golden hand giving the thumbs-up signal.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Kunlun and Qingcheng, halfway through the film.
  • Suicide by Sunlight: Snow Wolf is a non-vampire example.
  • No Escape but Down: Kunlun, after being pursued by Duke Wuhuan’s men and reaching the edge of a cliff. He hits the water below but survives.
  • Power at a Price: Downplayed, in the opening scene of the movie a young Qingcheng encounters the goddess Manshen, and is given an offer for a life of wealth, luxury as the most beautiful woman in the land, but in exchange Qingcheng may never find true love. She accepts.
  • Running on All Fours: Kunlun, caught in a stampede in the opening battle, runs with both hands and feet to stay ahead of the pack.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Snow Wolf turns out to be from the Land of Snow, whose occupants are massacred by Duke Wuhuan years ago, and he is forced to become Wuhuan’s servant to stop him from committing further bloodbath.
  • Villain in a White Suit: Duke Wuhuan, who wears white in all his scenes throughout the entire movie.


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