Heavenly Sword is a CGI animated movie based on the PS3 game from 2007. Not owning a PS3 I haven’t played the game, so I’m judging this movie on a stand-alone basis.
Heavenly Sword is entertaining, but not too engaging. It’s like someone else said: it really does feel as if the cut scenes were removed from the game and strung together with a reworked plot to make a movie. Which is not good when you haven’t even played the game and you get that feeling.
The game’s story and mythos revolves around the titular Heavenly Sword, a blade said to have been wielded by an unnamed Heavenly deity against a demonic warlord called the Raven Lord. After the battle was won and the Raven Lord defeated, the sword was left in the mortal world, becoming the center of wars over its power. The fighting made the sword lust after the life of its users, eventually killing them after a short time. A warrior tribe finally took charge of the sword, ending the wars and pledging to keep it safe and unused for the world’s own good. Among the tribe, a legend said that the sword’s original wielder would be reborn in the year of the “fire-horse”, and that this figure would unite the world’s scattered tribes and lead the world to peace. (Synopsis via Wikipedia)
By all accounts the movie’s plot diverges greatly from the game’s. Key difference being that Nariko and Kai are true sisters: Master Shen was ashamed of his failure to deliver the Chosen One for his clan so he set off across the country, sexually assaulting various women to spread his seed around. And it worked: he fathered a son- Loki- whom once discovered everyone now assumes is the Chosen One. Problem is Loki took off to seek his fortune, and couldn’t have picked a worse place to do so- Bohan’s fortress. So the girls have to set off to find their little brother and hand him the sword- smack dab in enemy HQ.
The story doesn’t make some things clear and leans on a few cliches. Nariko runs around challenging entire armies while barely wearing any clothing ala Red Sonja. Why she couldn’t wear even some piecemeal armor is beyond me. King Bohan’s connection to the Raven King is never really shown until the final scene, and even then you have to think about it for a minute to realize what’s happening. He also rules the kingdom from a fortress built inside a volcano… riiight. More like the creators were enamored with the Fire Nation’s Boiling Rock Prison from Last Airbender. The steampunk elements were kinda distracting- like Kai’s repeating cylinder crossbow and her appearance (all she was missing was goggles), the gliders and catapults employed by Bohan… heck- the gondolas they had to use just to get to his fortress! Whatever, man.
The CGI and motion capture aren’t as smooth as you’d think they’d be, but they’re decent enough. Still not a fan of all these folks with western features running around an Asian setting, either. The music doesn’t play much into things, but as a soundtrack/score buff I kept an ear out for it. Wasn’t bad; did the job to underscore the emotional and dramatic sense of the moment. The action is 100% video game/wuxia like you’d expect- leaping, twirling, twisting, diving, ten-against-one, etc. Can’t forget Flying Fox and Whiplash- the latter whom I’d like to have seen more of. Fox’s illusions were when I started getting annoyed: there was no reason to suspect he’d had that kind of power and seemed like a complete ass pull.
Voice acting is ok; often times it was out of sync with the character’s facial movements- like good ol’ fashioned bad kung fu overdubbing. The actors themselves were good: Anna Torv reprises her role as Nariko, Ashleigh Ball plays Kai; Alfred Molina (who’s instantly recognizable) as King Bohan replaces Andy Serkis who was unavailable and Nolan North fills multiple roles as supporting characters Master Shen, Roach and Kyo.
Heavenly Sword’s not a bad way to spend 90 minutes- it just could’ve been a lot better. And stick around for the end credits for a possible hint of things to come.