Review by Bradley Smith
The year is 255 B.C. during a period known as the “Seven Warring States” when the Seven Kingdoms of China fought a seemingly endless battle. Two war orphans, sold into slavery, practice their sword fighting every day in order to become the world’s greatest generals until one day their paths diverge, and the adventure begins.
Based on a Japanese Manga consisting of 53 volumes that sold over 38 million copies, Kingdom is a beautiful, epic film that follows one of the aforementioned orphan boys, Xin, and a young king, Ying Zheng, who intends to unify China but has been overthrown by his younger brother. The two unite to get revenge, fulfill a dying man’s wish, and reinstate the king to his rightful thrown.
I was pleasantly surprised by this film. Within 10 minutes, I found myself emotionally invested in Xin and (the other orphan) Piao’s story almost to the point of shedding a tear or two when they were forced to part ways. Since I had never read the manga, seen the anime, or studied much of Chinese history (all mistakes I will need to rectify), I thought the film was going to take a different turn where the orphan boys grew into adversaries after they separated. This does not happen, thankfully, as the story gives us a much more believable antagonist, Cheng Jiao.
Cheng Jiao is the half brother of Ying Zheng and believes non-royal blood is inferior, proving it with some violent actions toward people that would generally be considered “good” just because of their lineage. Cheng Jiao had two parents of royal descent while Ying Zheng one had one- their father. This led Cheng Jiao to believe he was the rightful king and attempt to kill Ying Zheng. I do not want to spoil too much, so I will not say how, but Piao was crucial in Ying Zheng’s escape and his teaming up with Xin. Of course, the two of them along would not stand much of a chance against Cheng Jiao’s army, but that might be spoiling too much. Suffice it to say, most of the characters they meet along their journey and the twists related to those characters are intriguing and/or entertaining.
In addition to the story is plenty of exciting, well-choreographed action and fight scenes that blend into the story flawlessly, as you might expect from the source material. The original author of the manga, Yasuhisa Hara, was brought in to help write the screenplay and revise the original story to accommodate real-life obstacles like shooting locations and properly condense five volumes into a two and a quarter hour movie. As I said earlier, I have not read the manga, but I thought they did a fantastic job crafting the story for the movie. The pace is fairly even, and it did not feel like two hours had passed when the credits rolled.
The acting was also a treat. I cannot say I am familiar with the actors, but they do have impressive resumes and they were excellent on screen. I did have to spend some of my time looking at the subtitles, which never bothers me unless I get distracted by the action on screen. I would highly recommend this for manga/anime/action fans; it will be in a theater near me next week (as of when I write this) and I am considering going to check it out there. I bet it will look glorious on the big screen.
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