The Dynasty Warriors video game franchise is known for its over-the-top action and superhero-esque player characters. Gameplay consists of defeating huge amounts of enemies with supercharged hack-and-slash combos and epic special moves. Can all of that mayhem be accurately portrayed in a movie? Absolutely it can.
Dynasty Warriors - now streaming on Netflix - is full to the brim with ludicrous fight scenes, ranging from clashes between armies to one-on-one combat with flying participants. Main characters wield immense power, including elemental abilities. These make for some mesmerising set pieces, with characters throwing fire, water, wind and anything else they like at each other. The special effects are wonderful in these moments, looking both realistic and fantastical in equal measure, which perfectly captures the feel of the games.
Watch the film's trailer here
The cinematography is equally as surreal. The green of the grass is striking, and the electric blue bodies of water are beautiful. The way the cinematography captures the film's locations presents imagery that feels both natural and otherworldly, like the narrative takes place in an alternate version of Earth. It's a wonderful overall effect that enchants your eyes.
This hybrid feel is present throughout the entire film. The main characters are basically magical but face very real issues of political struggles in a world where everyone has their own sense of justice. Main character Liu Bei and his loyal companions Guan Yu and Zhang Fei are loyal to the Han Dynasty - arguably the rightful rulers of the land - while deuteragonist Cao Cao's mindset is less clear. All four are "good guys" in their own ways, but it's up to you who you rally behind.
Watching the film in its original Cantonese, even a non-speaker like myself could appreciate the charismatic delivery of Cao Cao, especially against the more aggressive, intentionally charmless speaking style of primary antagonist Dong Zhou. The way dialogue flows between characters is a joy to behold, even if the Netflix subtitles distract at times with incorrect text. There's also an English dub if you'd rather avoid reading while you watch.
My only real gripe with the film is its pace. The experience feels rushed at several points, with key scenes delivered as if via shotgun blast. Some moments of Dynasty Warriors feel fine when they could've felt superb, if they'd been given more time to organically develop. I found myself thinking I'd missed whole scenes at times, despite taking in everything on screen with complete concentration. In this respect, the film's story would better suit the TV series format, made up of six episodes, at least. I suppose a long-running show would better suit something called Dynasty Warriors, right?
However, Dynasty Warriors is still a fine movie, and a wonderful example of what a video game film can be. The action is joyously chaotic. The characters, while sometimes simplistic, are a pleasure to explore. Then there's the wardrobe which is just incredible, with each weapon, garment and piece of armour being ornately decorated, making characters leap off of the screen (well, the main characters anyway).
In short, Dynasty Warriors is worth the price of admission for any fan of fantasy action movies - and as the cost is already covered by your Netflix subscription, you can't really go wrong.
Dynasty Warriors is streaming now on Netflix UK; other territories may vary.
Featured Image Credit: IMDB / Netflix
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