Sunday, 9 October 2011


1911 [Review]

Opinion: D

Severely fragmented and a questionable attempt at inspiring the film audience of the 1911 Chinese Revolution. 1911 may feature some A-listers such as Jackie Chan and Li Bingbing but we soon realise that its for marketing purposes as it doesn't allow its prominent actors much opportunities to shine. The film falls extremely short as its frustrating narrative structure should turn audience away from interest in this chapter of Chinese history instead.

Jackie Chan’s 100th movie, 1911 is a historical epic based on the 1911 Chinese Revolution, which ended the last feudal dynasty of China.

Huang Xin (Jackie Chan) and Sun Yat Sen (Winston Chao) are leaders of the revolution fighting for better living conditions for the people. They gather to go against the deteriorated Qing Dynasty. During the uprisings against the royal troops, a huge number of revolutionists are sacrificed.

The Empress appoints Yuan Shi Kai and his soldiers to retaliate. Huang then commands the defended troop, resisting for one month before succeeding. Sun is appointed the temporary President who relinquishes his position to Yuan as Yuan managed to convince the Qing Royal to surrender.

This spelled the end of 268 years under the reign of the Qing Dynasty and 2000 years of monarchy. The Republic was founded.

Understand that the film's intention was probably to reenact certain significant moments in history during the 1911 Chinese Revolution. It drew upon the aid of some A-list Asian actors with the likes of Jackie Chan and Li Bingbing, but was soon found guilty of wasting precious talent resources.

Without much planning into the script, the film (directed by Jackie Chan and cinematographer Li Zhang) begins in the middle of somewhere and continues to dwell into specific chapters of the 1911 Revolution. Briefly introduced by the means of overlaying text narrative transitions, we are constantly thrown into the middle of senseless battlefield actions and events.

This is highly frustrating to watch, even for those who are well-versed in Chinese history.

Battlefield scenes are there just to pump up the volume as we just witness random soldiers perishing and suffering from war perils. We know it is intended to hype up the audience's emotions to feel for certain parties, but the problem is: We don't know who's who.

Less scenes of Jackie Chan grunting and shouting commands, most of the times we just see people dying and fighting to perform 'kamikaze' sacrificial acts. The sequences get repeated several times before the final third of the film settles down for some proper drama narrative.

But the damage's been done and nothing can salvage this hopeless attempt at throwing limelight upon a significant chapter of Chinese history.

In the opening third of the film, several characters get a text overlay introduction of their names and then they disappear into some secret corner of the film reel. I don't know what happened to them and the reason for their special textual introduction.

Perhaps this is merely an exercise of history class project, attempting to relive history through the medium of cinema.

If so, the cause may be great but the execution highly questionable. I have no idea how actors like Li Bingbing have agreed to a project like this, less possible nationalistic patriotism residing within them. I would have rather their sense of national goodwill be turned into a reprimanding confrontation of the filmmakers approach.

I've always thought of Jackie Chan's directorial calibre as acceptable at worse.

Much said, actors like Winston Chao (as Sun Yat-Sen) and Joan Chen (as Empress Dowager Longyu) continue to sizzle the silver screen with charisma. Winston Chao had been playing Sun Yat-Sen quite a number of times due to his uncanny resemblance to the late revolutionary and political Leader.

Even if this is truly Jackie Chan's 100th film, it is not a worthy centennial celebration.

Not even close.

1 comment:

  1. That's too bad. I had been wanting to see this as I am interested in Chinese history, particularly the early twentieth century. Terrific review. I probably will see this just because I do like Joan Chen.


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