Directed by John Woo, Red Cliff reportedly cost US$80 million. As a fan of the classic novel Three Kingdoms, I was very eager to see what a difference such a big budget could make on a repeatedly filmed story. Adding to my eagerness was the fact that one of my favorite actors, Tony Leung, plays a starring role, Zhou Yu.
Because (a shortened version of) the movie for the
I couldn't connect the notion of "do laughter" with the grand war scenes of Red Cliff. On the other hand, I have seen how some
Impatient, I ended up buying the DVD from a Chinese online store in the
I of course have no objection to jocular treatment of any subject. The problem is that the director (and playwright) obviously did not mean to make the movie as a joke. The money, intent and effort were dead serious. Why it has resulted in such a laughable effect can only be explained by two things: one, the director and actors were unfamiliar with the history (I wonder if they have read any books about it other than the screenplay); two, with a long oral story-telling tradition of the Three Kingdoms, we Chinese audience can no longer accept a stupidification of historical figures. At least not Zhu Geliang!
I suppose the silliness in dialogues will be less a problem to American audiences. After all, the unintended effect might be lost in translation. Further, someone has made a wise decision to cut the length of the original film from 4 hours to 2½ for American theaters. I hope this will help improve the attractiveness of the battle scenes and also eliminate some "do-laughter" elements.
To be fair, there are also some creative and fun details in the movie, for example the association between a turtle's shell and Zhu Geliang's "eight trigram" battle formation. Zhou Yu, who was known in history to be proficient in music, stopped in the middle of training his army to tune a flute for a village boy. Still a bit overdone, but at least for a reason. And IMO Tony Leung did a better job acting Zhou Yu than Takeshi Kaneshiro acting Zhu Geliang, though my impression is that, judging by the two actors' appearances, switching their roles would better match our images of the historical figures. I heard that Tony was originally assigned the role of Zhu Geliang, but he refused, citing that he was not familiar with the role.
Overall I felt director John Woo had a tendency toward overkill, which resulted in humorless exaggeration in the acting. He needs to exercise a bit more control and incorporate a bit more subtlety next time.