Friday, October 10, 2008

Storm Rider: Clash of Evils (风云决)

It's been more than 10 years since Andrew Lau brought Ma Rong Cheng's long running comic book series to the big screen, helped by commendable and eye popping visual effects in its time not seen in martial arts epics, and of course starring two Hong Kong leading men at the time, Aaron Kwok and Ekin Cheng, in the lead roles of Cloud and Wind respectively, together with Sonny Chiba's memorable take and immense graphic novel likeness as chief villain Conquer. Granted there were some gripes amongst purists who took a dislike for the cinematic interpretation of their beloved characters, given that the story somewhat differed from the richly created world of Tian Xia.

When it was released, its box office success had everyone think that a sequel would be in the works soon after, and even having names like Andy Lau crop up as a powerful character in the mythos called Nameless. Alas the sequel was never to be, until recently where the Pang Brothers reunites the original leading men in a sequel with a release just over the horizon. Meanwhile, fans would have to make do with this animated film, which is in itself a standalone movie, or if you'd like, a reboot of sorts from the live action film.

The two key characters of Cloud and Wind still take centerstage here, voiced by Richie Ren and Nicholas Tse respectively, and in a slightly different recap of the events from the film (and probably the book - true blue comic book fans will have to step in and verify here), both Cloud and wind were involved in busting the mythical Kirin beast, and in the process, had infused its blood and spirit into their beings. However, Wind got the shorter end of the stick, in that he becomes a Jekyll and Hyde character with the Kirin beast spirit contained within his being, which takes over when Cloud exercises the powers of his Kirin-tattooed left arm.

After settling scores with Conquer, Cloud and Hyde-Wind turn on each other, and in their tussle, Cloud falls from great heights, survives but loses his memory. Wind, in thinking that his brother-in-arms had passed on, starts becoming an alcoholic wanderer, but in the world of martial arts, you can bet your last dollar that someone else will rise from the evil ranks to assume leadership position, just like how the comic books have the heroes pit their skills from villain to villain.

Those unfamiliar with the mythos might get a tad confused with the multitude of characters thrown in your way. Those whose knowledge like solely with the cinematic interpretation, will be able to identify supporting characters such as the Mud Buddha and his pet fire monkey, and probably whoop with joy that Nameless too makes an appearance. Otherwise you'll struggle to understand the very cunning double crossing plot between Duan Lang and Ao Jue, each having their own agenda in a symbiotic evil alliance, and the many characters that come and go throughout the narrative.

Those who are sword fanatics will have their appetites whet with the introduction of two powerful swords besides my personal favourite of Cloud's Jue Shi Hao Jian. Action wise, the animated world can perform stunts that live-action probably could not, unless running the risk of busting its budget, and we get to see an entire plethora of skills used in the numerous sparring of the character. It seems like everyone gets into a fight every 5 minutes or so. OK I may be exaggerating here, but you get my drift. There are plenty of times where the action literally flies at such physics-defying angles and pace, that it all becomes a blur, which of course warrants a second viewing for one to take in all the big action sequences, one which involves tsunami-creation!

Don't expect much of any character development in this movie though, as its focus primarily was to give fans a taste of some kinetically pulsating action which seems in line with the way the comics are drawn. All in all, there is room for an expansion of the animated series by way of the cliffhanging ending, but I'd bet to everyone leaving the cinemas after watching this, the interest in the Pang Brother's version will undoubtedly already be piqued.

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