The first rebuttal in the marathon where there is a major level of disagreement!
Like usual, go check out Edgar’s review at Between The Seats so you know what I’m responding to.
The biggest difference between the way the two of us viewed Mo Gong has to come down to the films themes. Where you saw a multi-layered anti-war, and pro-war, film I saw a movie that was confused in every way. The director, Chi Leung ‘Jacob’ Cheung, could not decide what he wanted Mo Gong to say or be about. Maybe this was present in the manga as well, but I’ve never read the manga so I can only voice my disappointment at how the film handled its themes. Where you read anti-war, I read a film that was fine with war as long as it was placed at the right moments to liven up an otherwise dull film.
You appeared to have been quite taken by the films antagonist/protagonist switcharoo. At this I can only become more confused. I never got the impression that the film, or its director, was in any way concerned with who was the antagonist or the protagonist. To the very end Mo Gong came across to me as an epic war film that had standard twists and turns that have been shown in any number of epic movies, war or otherwise, like Ben-Hur for instance. The deepness you found in the characters based on their participation in a war and their need for survival was lost on me. I simply did not see much of, if any, of that. I wish I could tell you that I did, but truth be told I found the characters and their actions to be on the predictably shallow side.
I can kind of understand your point about the intelligence of Gei Li. I did find myself enjoying the way they played up the tactical and thinking side of his character. Still, I don’t think they played it up as much as you suggest. For the most part I found that Gei Li fulfilled the role of the nearly perfect hero who had just the right thing to say or action to take at every moment. That’s not so much intelligence as it is the hardened warrior version of the manic pixie dream girl, a character created, or borrowed liberally from history, who is more fantasy than reality.
I’ll end by agreeing with you on Andy Lau. His performance was pretty good, but it’s Andy Lau so I’ve come to expect a good performance from him. I’m glad you enjoyed Mo Gong so much, but I found it to be par for the course as far as historical war epics go. There were moments of beautiful cinematography and the film managed to deliver a competent, if meandering story. On the whole, Mo Gong was just another run of the mill war epic, and Odin knows there have bee more than enough of those littered throughout cinematic history.
Go and read Edgar’s rebuttal at Between The Seats.