Friday, 5 June 2015

Storm Riders: Clash of the Evils (2008)

The opening of this animated feature has some strong thematic overlaps with The Storm Warriors.  As in that film, the character Wind turns to a corrupt form of power in order to defeat an enemy, and as in that film, he is overcome by it, which leads to a kung fu battle between himself and Cloud.  Almost all of the details are different, however: the enemy Wind must battle (in this it is Conquer, the villain of The Storm Riders), the source of the tainted power, and the physical manifestation of Wind's corruption, just to name three.

The battle sees Cloud plummet to his death; at least as far as the penitent and apparently  restored Wind believes.  Cloud survives of course, though - of course - he has amnesia.

The two men have their own separate adventures for a while.  Amnesiac-Cloud falls in with a group of street kid pickpockets and, freed of the terrible memories of his childhood, is actually happy for the first time in his life.  Wind ... gets drunk a lot and randomly beats people up, really.  He falls in with a group who are hiding from the martial arts community.  Most of them want to kill him since he's clearly a master of king fu, but their female leader forbids it.  She advances several logical reasons for this, but it sure doesn't hurt that she thinks Wind is kinda dreamy.

Of course, there are villains in the film, but they spend most of the first half engaged in parallel activities that - while they are ultimately intended to lead to a confrontation with Wind and Cloud - do not directly impinge on the main characters' lives.  Eventually though they show up, Wind and Cloud are reunited, and there's lots and lots of kung fu fighting.  Not that this was something the film was short on at any point, to be honest.

There are things that I liked about this film.  For example, I appreciated some of the visual design and I liked Cloud's arc as he becomes a better - and happier - person over the course of the movie.  Unfortunately, it's got several weaknesses.  The biggest is that it seems to rely pretty heavily on the viewer having some familiarity with the original comics on which all three films have been based.  I was able to follow along since I've seen the other two films, but a viewer without that background might well struggle.  On those occasions when the film does give context, on the other hand, it often does so in a very heavy-handed and inelegant manner (though that might partly be the fault of the subtitles; possibly it works better in the original Chinese).  Finally, as I said earlier, it sure does have a lot of kung fu fighting.  As with The Storm Warriors, I was ready for the battles to be over well before they actually were.

I suspect that if you are a fan of the original comics, this is a pretty good film.  For anyone else, it's likely to be more miss than hit.

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