Another Failed Videogame Adaptation
Despite being aware of the video games, I must confess I’ve never played Dynasty Warriors. I have seen YouTubers play through parts of it and I am familiar with the story. However, I’ve never actually sat down and played any of the games from start to finish.
Going into this one as a neutral, Dynasty Warriors serves up a surprisingly accessible story. It’s just a shame that the story it tells is very bland and criminally open-ended by the end of its 2 hour run-time.
Despite a budget of around $28 million the CGI in this is…woeful, to say the least. While soldiers twirling about and defying the laws of gravity while fighting isn’t exactly new to this genre (hello, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) it’s less excusable when CGI soldiers glitch out on a battlefield or horses unrealistically whizz through the air.
In fact there are moments in this that are rendered so poorly that they had me laughing out loud. It’ definitely not intentional but this movie actually feels like a comedy at times. The editing only feeds into this, with some rapid cuts and dizzying shots that are more disorientating than engaging.
Dynasty Warriors is most certainly not a comedy though. This is a movie that takes itself very seriously – perhaps too seriously at times.
Set during the turbulent late Eastern Han Dynasty, this film boasts an epic story about feuding Kingdoms and a wrestle for power. At the heart of all this is ambitious and opportunistic Dong Zhuo. After successfully defeating the Yellow Turbans on the battlefield, he quickly seizes control of the Han Court. He takes the Young Prince hostage and replaces him with a puppet King in Chen Liu.
Determined to overthrow his wicked rule, Cao Cao plots an assassination which ultimately goes wrong. One thing leads to another and Cao Cao finds himself a wanted man. He’s on the run and determined to get his revenge.
Running parallel to this are three noble and formidable fighters – Liu Bei, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei. After helping Dong Zhuo on the battlefield, they reassess their goals. Together, they decide to try and help Cao Cao overthrow the evil dictator and bring balance back to the Han Dynasty.
All of this leads up to a final battle across a barren battlefield. These scenes feel like a combination of Pelennor Fields from Lord of the Rings and one of those mobile tower defence games. It’s quite the stark juxtaposition and at times it jars badly.
Unfortunately, all of this bombastic action amounts for nothing given the film’s climax. No spoilers here of course, but basically nothing is resolved. Instead, a teasing glimpse of what’s to come is shown as the movie preps for a sequel to continue this story. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, a warning at the start would have been nice.
Given this is a videogame adaptation (and there’s been very few that are actually good), this movie falls into the same traps. Most characters feel one-dimensional. Dong Zhuo is a power-hungry war lord and that’s it. The trio of warriors are good, by definition, but don’t have a lot else to define them.
The only character here given a tad bit of nuance is Cao Cao. However, a lot of that can be attributed to the acting of Wang Kai who really helps elevate his character.
Unfortunately, this isn’t enough to look past the film’s mass of problems. As mentioned before, the CGI is so bad that it becomes comedic. There’s also no tension thanks to large stretches of dialogue that drag on for far too long. And the film has a nasty habit of throwing exposition and unnatural dialogue into every exchange.
While some of the sword fighting is quite good and the movie does have a few stand-out moments, it’s not enough to elevate this one. Instead, Dynasty Warriors joins the graveyard of other failed videogame adaptations. But hey, at least there’s going to be a sequel!