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  Publicity Stills of "Butterfly Lovers"
(Courtesy of Shaw)

Director: Jingle Ma
Cast: Wu Chun, Charlene Choi, Wu Ge, Ti Lung, Shao Bing, Harlem Yu
RunTime: 1 hr 43 mins
Released By: Shaw & InnoForm Media
Rating: TBA
Official Website: www.butterflyloversmovie.com

Opening Day: 16 October 2008


Life is fleeting as the butterfly, beautiful yet transient. As legends has it, a pair of butterfly lovers reappears once more after having gone through three lifetimes of repeated pain and tears.

This time, they find each other in the world of martial arts. Liang is highly skilled in martial arts and resides in the mountains. When his master tasks him to take care of Zhu, a girl from a wealthy family who disguises as guy to herself from revenge, it sparks off the painful journey that they must go through once again.

Zhu’s father, in order to pay the kindness shown to him, has betrothed her to a General Ma, although Zhu is in love with Liang. Love can fester into hate in some while in the selected few, it can lead to undying love that survives one lifetime after another.

Movie Review:

Once in a while, the television and film industry would dust off the cobwebs on classic literature, and put a creative spin on it to come up with an updated version, casting the latest and hottest sensations in lead roles in order to attract the current generation of audiences. Definitive romances like Romeo and Juliet, and in the East, the Butterfly Lovers, are cornerstones of such reboots, remakes and updates, though Jingle Ma's martial arts version and interpretation somewhat falls short.

Granted it was his ambition to try and fuse martial arts with a strong romantic backbone, but wait, wasn't that done close to perfection by Lee Ang with his Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? And while it was a loose adaptation of the Chinese classical story (being a namesake), it contained too many elements that ran parallel with Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, where besides the leads you have characters cutting too close to The Capulet parents, the Friar and Paris the suitor, though playing the chief villain here. Not to mention of course the crucial plot element and development in the finale too that you could see coming from the halfway mark.

The Butterfly Lovers are in name and in cute pictures adorned on the hero's sword only, while having the motif hammered through with the bountiful CG butterflies in artificially painted landscapes. While the story may be already somewhat familiar, as I mentioned, it veered too much of a distance away from its Liang-Zhu roots to lean more toward R&J, and it became apologetic for it right at the beginning by stating up front some hokey rationale about this being the supposed 10th reincarnation story of a pair of virgin lovers match-made in Heaven (and seriously, Heaven has such a wry sense of wicked humour).

That aside, the other draw in being a martial arts version, fell flat too. Action choreographed by veteran Ching Siu Tung, the fights look terribly tired and doesn't contain any innovative sequences that would wow you. While the finale battle between lover and lover-wannabe tried to elevate its street-cred by having it fought at night and in the rain, it became cheat-sheet action with plenty of slow motions and pretty poses, which of course are nice to look at, only as a framed movie still. And you could probably play a drinking game with spot-the-moments of familiar action sequences, which borrows even from The Bourne Ultimatum (no kidding!), albeit done with less intensity.

Charlene Choi's star is likely to be rising given the unfortunate scandal of the other Twin, and here she snags the meaty role of one-half of the star crossed lovers in Zhu Yangi, the daughter of a wealthy family who had to be bundled off to understudy martial arts with the Ease Soul Clan, dressed as a guy because the Clan is an all-boys organization only. But Charlene being Charlene, she's too cute to pass off as a boy despite being bound unsuccessfully across the chest, and trying her best to keep her voice low, which (and probably the dubbed voice) failed to keep consistent and abandoned the effort altogether. Why everyone in the story can't interpret her explicit feminine charms, is a miracle in itself.

The male lead role is played by relative newcomer Wu Chun, who's a member of a Taiwan pop band known as Fahrenheit. He would probably raise some temperatures here as the resident heartthrob and best fighter of the Ease Soul Clan, and any suspicion of his Liang Chun Shan being a closet gay (well after all Liang is to find himself strangely attracted to Zhu) get tossed out the window when it's made clear from the onset that he suspects Yangi's gender and dreams of beautiful maidens. I guess one should go out some ways to protect his pop idol image as the Romeo for his female fans.

Much of the story goes through the usual drudgery of having both characters meet, and starting to fall in love through activities and interaction in and around the Clan base, so it's pretty much following the rote here, that doesn't call for any award winning performances, and thus none delivered as you don't really feel the happiness or tragedy of the lovers' predicament. Harlem Yu probably added a bit of cheeky fun as the Clan's resident healer Herbal Head, but don't expect any more of the supporting cast to be anything other than one-dimensional, or serving more than their singular or forgettable screen functions. The synopsis above would give you an idea of what's to transpire, and it's nothing new for serial daters who hit the cinemas for their regular fix of romantic date-movies.

But I suppose if you're new to the story, you just might want to give this version a go and keep an open mind, because its ending is nothing short of being macabre.

Movie Rating:

(Wherefore art thou, Liang-Zhu?)

Review by Stefan Shih


. An Empress And The Warriors (2008)

. Playboy Cops (2008)

. Happy Birthday (2007)

. A Chinese Tall Story (2005)

. Seoul Raiders (2005)

. The Twins Effect II (2004)


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