The Legend of the Black ScorpionAdapted from William Shakespeare’s epic tragedy Hamlet, The Legend of the Black Scorpion (formerly known as Ye Yan or The Banquet) has the expansive scope and spectacle worthy of an epic film. There are sweeping crane shots, flying warriors, expansive sets and elaborate fight scenes, all of which are expertly executed and presented. There’s even a genuine international star at the center of the film in the form of the darkly controlling Ziyi Zhang (Memoirs of a Geisha), who provides a solid centerpiece for the story to swirl around.

And swirl it does. The choreography by Yen Wo-ping (The Matrix) continuously swoops in and out of the picture with beautifully extensive fight scenes that often feel more like dances than simple fights, and though these elaborate fights are nothing new to any fan of Asian cinema, they still posess the ability to impress again and again. And in this highly stylized world even the slightly superfluous addition of flying splashes of blood is used so artistically that it becomes more of a set piece than mere violence for the sake of violence.

The plot does get a little submerged behind all the stylings, but fortunately the stylings are so eye-poppingly engaging that it hardly matters. Following the story of a murdered king, a usurped throne and sexual desire and control, The Legend of the Black Scorpion has all the royal drama of Gladiator, all the set design of Elizabeth and all the engaging fight work of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Its two hour length may be a bit intimidating to some filmgoers, especially considering that subtitle-reading will be involved throughout, but there’s so much going on its easy to get swept away in everything leading up to the epically tragic Hamlet ending.  

Zach’s Rating: B+
Perfect For: Any fan of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Stay Away if: You can’t watch fight scenes and read subtitles
Watch for: The opening fight scene in a bamboo-filled shrine

To purchase Legend of the Black Scorpion, visit Amazon

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