So here it is the updated 2011 version of the 14 Amazon story.
Directed by Frankie Chan ( Prodigal son, Outlaw Brothers) ,now Frankie is not new to action and in the 80's directed quite few good films ,now some ten years since his last film duties he's back with a remake of a Shaw Brothers classic and one that's as much a costume drama as well as a action film.
How does he fare is a questionable debate. The first thing your notice about Legendary Amazons is the cast ,which is full of stars of yesteryear. With Kathy Chow,Yukari Oshima ,Cheng Pei Pei and Cecilia Cheung and Richie Chen being the main protagonists.
When the Yang Generals are wiped out in battle ,or believed so the head woman of the clan decide to go into battle to revenge for their loss of their men and General Yang Zongbao (Richie Chen) , sound familiar? . Well it should if you have watched 14 Amazons or read the review of 14 Amazons above.
Now there are some differences in the story ,as for one the Imperial officer who delivers a edict that the Yang should go into battle and lead ten thousand soldiers and that Yang Zongbao's son '' Yang Wenguang should become the Marshall and lead the party forward.
The head of the clan She Saihua ( Cheng Pei Pei ) or the Great Grandmother if you like relays that just ten thousand men is to little and that they would fight a losing battle. But until the Yang can prove there worth, further enforcements won't be sent. The Young Yang Wenguang agrees as to stop the family getting prosecuted for treason.
I must point out that in the Region 3 release of the film the English Subtitles have Cheng Pei Pei as Taichun, so if your watching that version you now know.
Now the family decide that the Young Wenguang can only go into battle if he fights his Grandmas and wins, he vows he will not fight them but would fight a younger member of the clan.
As His mother Mu Guiying the Matriarch of the family ( Cecilia Cheung) and wife of fallen general Yang Zongbao look on with the rest of the family it looks like Wenguang will be going into battle .
This is quite worrying as earlier he had been playing pranks and blew up the residence wall to escape out side. My god there going into battle with a child leading them.
This is where the film falters ,for some reason the film seems played for laugh s at points ,and what makes it more comical is the over cranking of the camera on the fight scenes ,which is more evident on the singular face off’s ( you know the ones you want to see) . The main battles scenes fair better with some quite good battles ,though they do at times look like there lacking numbers on the battlefield.,sometimes this is rectified by having CGI backgrounds of people fighting ,how do I know this ,well the blending of the CGI and the real thing is so bad that I think I could do the same effects at home on my home computer,they may even be better.
Basically the CGI in the film is such a let down it ruins the film somewhat before it's even started.
The film moves along similar to the original until we discover that Zongbao did not die ,but was rescued by some Song citizens and help him. When Wenguang gets fooled that his father is still alive ( the ,Mongols put his helmet on one of their soldiers) he rushes to free his dad,but ,his mother Mu Guiyying usurps him to protect the Yang family ( a Capitol offence ,with death as the penalty) ,but when the the Mongols attack the Yang parties get separated , Wenguang is believed to be dead after going of a cliff.
In fact he gets saved by the same Song citizens that saved his dad after getting trapped in a tree.
When he realizes his dad is alive ,he meets him and relays his failure in battle and that Mother usurped him .Now they must go and save Mu Guiying.
Heading towards the Yang army base where a Corrupt general is making the Yang family pay for their crimes.
I can't say I did not enjoy the film ,but would have enjoyed it better if say it was not based on such a prolific Shaw Brothers feature.
There is quite a lot to like at times ,i liked the way they used these props of old weapon devices ,some of which where quite intricate. Another good scene was when the ambush takes place (though it's not in the same place as the original) the Yang have to get She Saihua to safety,they run for a cave ,the Mongols send in flaming balls of fire as the Yang escape ,looking at the making of ,you can see they actually had balls of fire that stunt people ran away from (this really is 80's action) , other scenes include the filming in what looks like a desert as cranes lifted the actors on wires as rolling devices mowed them down, these devices also on wires looked devastating, and by some of the out takes where so, as injury looked evident.
I think Frankie Chan's choice in having a cast of yesteryears stars was cool,but then many of today’s stars may have not put up with the hardships of the shoot ,of which looked there where many.
I actually think Cheng Pei Pei was great as the Great Grandmother and a perfect choice ,just a shame she did not bust any moves out. The scene where they make a human bridge was not given enough thought and was lackluster to the original .i thought will they include it and when the moment approached I was on edge to see what would happen ,but it was a bit of a let down in it's approach ,i think they tried to hard to make it plausible. Which it was ,BORING!.
Legendary Amazons should be viewed as a standalone film,rented for a laugh and it's colourful costumes and famous faces. In comparing to the 14 Amazons it does not come close in it's brilliance , if only Jackie had a say in the film-making process. And I hope Frankie Chan's input on Jackie's new film ''Chinese Zodiac'' is a lot better then this .
All they had to do was get rid of the CGI stuff and film some fluid battles at normal speed and the film would have been a lot better, or get a bigger budget.
But then would you give a big budget to someone who's not made a film in more then ten years?
So Legendary Amazons , a colourful romp with familiar faces let down by poor execution.
Score out of Ten = 6
Review Date : 04-07-12