Dynasty Warriors: Review
Dynasty Warriors Synopsis: Warlords, warriors, and statesmen wage a battle for supremacy in this fantasy tale based on the hit video games and the “Romance of the Three Kingdoms.”
Amidst a busy array of video game movies (the last eight months alone has brought us Monster Hunter, Mortal Kombat, and the indie darling Werewolves Within), Netflix has quietly purchased the rights to an international adaptation of the cheeky Dynasty Warriors games (the streaming juggernaut spent eight-figures alone for domestic rights). I’ve always had a soft spot for the hack and slash series, which puts players in control of superpowered soldiers battling an endless array of enemy rebels. The games are enjoyable in their inherent mindlessness, presenting over-the-top carnage with dynamic reckless abandon.
A mixture of grandiose action setpieces and bold stylistic choices would seemingly make the game franchise ripe for shameless entertainment. While the film extracts some colorfully cartoonish charms, director Roy Chow Hin-Yeung largely oversees an overproduced and undelivered rift on the game’s spirited energy.
Still, Hin-Yeung certainly presents a pulse on what fans of the franchise want to see. The director’s earnest feature embraces every chance for bombastic thrills, taking the game’s action-driven approach to heart with an endless onslaught of busy confrontations. Hin-Yeung skillfully infuses supernatural sparks and bold choreography to spice up the eastern action formula. Compared to the games, Dynasty Warriors also makes a more sincere effort in the storytelling department. Following a band of famed warriors plotting their revenge against a boorish rebel leader, Chi-long To’s screenplay scores points for its reflections on soldier’s personal responsibilities amidst days of government division.
Sincerity can only take middling material so far, as Dynasty Warriors suffers from the same noisy emptiness as its interactive counterpart. I can appreciate the difficult task of turning the game’s ample historical inspirations into a succinct narrative, but To settles for far too many flat devices. The narrative is equally bloated and meaningless, dully plodding along exposition that is never given much in terms of weight.
It all takes place across a needlessly convoluted two-hour runtime, with the film drifting between busy plot mechanics despite the narrative’s simple approach. Seriously, why does the film value window dressing semantics rather than providing a simple rooting interest? The flat characterization and routine performances prevent audiences from ever investing in the carnage on display.
Dynasty Warriors rarely elicits much in terms of excitement. Even with his efforts to adhere to the game’s formula, Hin-Yeung’s film seems deathly afraid of the game’s preposterous roots. The CGI-laden action rarely backs up its creative visuals with dynamic framing (the few occasional gimmicks aren’t presented with enough craft), while the well-intended stuntwork still falls short of the series’ gonzo action flair. A satisfying last-ditch climax feels like too little too late for viewers who likely have started to tune out by the time chaos ensues.
I’ll always be first in line for any video game adaption, but Dynasty Warriors falls short of the source material’s unique edge in the gaming sphere. What works in gaming isn’t always best for the big-screen, but I would still give any future adaptation of the franchise a chance considering the brand’s lovably grand persona.