|Action, Adventure, Drama
Beijing Alnair, Changchun Film
September 23rd, 2011
Release length: 1:39:00
1911 has plenty of things going wrong with it right at the start. While the visuals are spectacular and clearly shot with high-definition cameras, you barely ever really get to enjoy a lot of the scenery due to the fast pace of the film. Admittedly there are plenty of times during the war scenes where explosions will occur, or just rain in general, will look absolutely fantastic even on a standard DVD. While these won’t really take your breath away, what time you get to spend in the beautiful landscapes of China really reminds you of what untouched wildernesses can look like, especially given the highly productive societies of today and how much of these lands end up torn down for factories or housing. But, again, much of this film goes at too fast a pace, so much of the high quality visuals end up being wasted due to being on-screen up to maybe five seconds before a scene will change, at least during war times. When in buildings the pace does slow to interject a little character building or discuss further plans.
The movie finds Sun Yat-Sen (Winston Chao), a famous doctor in China, as the leader of the revolution party. Amid the large cast that starts out the film, there is also Huang Xing (Jackie Chan), who starts off as a man who seems lazy and not really willing to push the revolution forward. While all the others in the film are looking to get ready and impress Xu Zonghan (Bingbing Li), whose presence is never really explained, he continues to try to sleep. Throughout the film, the scenes that do not put people at war do show a quick change to Huang Xing as a man who does want to help the rebels and the revolution to push to end the Qing dynasty and introduce a republic to the people of China. Sun Yat-Sen wants to do more, but Huang always talks him out of actually fighting on enemy lines, telling him he is too important to die in battle. The revolution comes at a time when the Qing empire is awaiting the finalization of a loan from a rail road company and it’s bank that will build a transnational rail road through much of China, and one of the goals for the rebels is to stop that from happening.
The revolutionaries start out strong, though many end up falling at the hands of the Qing empire, which leads Sun Yat-Sen and others involved to seek out others to join them in their battle, as well as to stop the loan from going through. However, the high society members of the Qing dynasty, including their ruler Longyu (Joan Chen), greatly dismiss them as any sort of threat to their empire. But, as time goes on, it becomes clear that many know Sun Yat-Sen is the leader, or at least the mouth piece for the revolutionaries, including those of the Qing dynasty, which leads to logical reasoning to kick in as to why nothing is done. But, their goal is for a peaceful turn of the government, and only fight when they have to. However, every other scene is a battle scene, which could be a continuation of the last scene, or a fresh one all together, even a somewhat moving scene of a woman looking for a man amid the bodies that had been pulled out of a river that the Qing dynasty followers killed and sank to the bottom with weights.
One of the aspects that keeps the film going so fast is the inclusion of description text that explains what happened, led up to, or follows the scene, largely during the war-themed scenes and not the character/story building moments. The issue here is that these crop up all the time, more so as you continue to the end, and the font can be a real pain to read unless you know Chinese due to how small the English text is, even with the subtitles on. If you miss one, chances are good you will have no idea what is going on even more than if you did manage to read it. But, the film doesn’t really backtrack on itself, and flows more in a linear path so if you miss something, you can just assume it’s a later date, someone important had died, or a section of land fell to the rebels. There are other subplots involved that have other rulers of lands interested in the revolution, or generals being acquired to fight on one side or the other, and these clips do usually end up being some of the more important moments that turn the tide of battle.
But, of all the scenes, it ends up being those involving Longyu and the others of the Qing dynasty that make you not only angry, but at the same time feel bad. As the story on their end unfolds, you can’t stand all the crying that she does, and how everyone bows before her when she does. But, at the same time, you can’t help but realize how bad everyone else seems to be manipulating her in her decisions, and how it all leads to the final outcome. You can’t help but feel it was brought on by her loyal subjects and their stubborn minds, egotistical attitudes, and generally greedy ways. It also is surprising that, considering it’s a Chinese film imported to America, that there were very few martial arts scenes. In fact, the one that happens towards the end of the film during an assassination attempt actually feels cheap, as if it were just put in so Jackie Chan can do his martial arts style on-screen for those who came in specifically to see his performance, and while it’s understandable to the plot point, it actually ends up cheapening the character a bit.
On a side note, this film clearly is meant to be watched with subtitles on. When you watch anything dubbed, a lot of the original material and effects ends up taken out, but this was absolutely horrible. The subtitles sometimes came on too late or left too fast for you to even read past two words, and there were times the words didn’t come on until the third sentence and just flew past to reach the current dialogue. On top of that the English dubbing was laughable. None of the voice actors really fit the characters, and some of the accents used, if used, give it a comedic feel. One of the generals is a larger man, and he’s played off as being a modern-day whiny teen by anima standards, nothing like the original character. On top of that, the actors also changed a lot of the text, often violating the original scripted words, and replaced many powerful sentences with modern-day lingo that really doesn’t fit an early nineteen hundred period at all. There is a British man in one of the scenes talking to the older man of the Qing dynasty, and his voice over has the worst possible accent, clearly being handled without a single damn being given, and many of the Chinese characters are given a strict American accent, but with a rough or dismal tone better suited to a western.
There really isn’t much to say about the film 1911. It’s clear when you sit down with it that the movie suffers from trying to fit too much into too small a space. When the film gets interesting, it’s a day, week, or month later in the next scene and you feel the last element of the story was rushed regardless of how important it is to the revolution, or was just played up to be. All the actors and actresses in the film do a good job, but if you hate reading in films you will not get the proper effect anyone involved meant with this film if you choose the dubbing option. It’s not a bad film if you are interested in China’s history, and for that it’s well worth a watch, but even then it’s faster pace is enough to confuse you in many ways if you aren’t already fluent in the revolution of its time. Had this film gone past the two-hour mark and more time given towards character building, or further establishing key elements of the film, this really would be a fantastic representation of China’s past. But, in the end, you can’t help but feel like it was cut down for a mainstream audience, and really had a lot more to offer the viewer who was genuinely willing to give it the time it so rightly deserved.
|Overall Score: 5.5/10
Physical review copy of this release provided by personal funds.