Take 3: Romeo Must Die Review

Before I begin this review, I want to apologize for not publishing this article sooner. I’ve been busy not only preparing for Christmas, but also working on projects that are blog and non-blog related. But I finally found the time to post my review for December’s Genre Grandeur! For this round of the blogathon, the theme is “Shakespeare on Film Movies”. At first, I thought this was going to be a challenge. When I searched for possible titles on the internet, however, I realized that there were plenty of films for me to choose from. Out of all those choices, I picked Romeo Must Die! Over the years, I have discovered that Romeo and Juliet retellings can be hit or miss. While I thought Gnomeo & Juliet was cute, I was not a fan of Romeo + Juliet. When I discovered that Romeo Must Die was a modern adaptation of the famous William Shakespeare story featuring martial arts, it raised my interest in this film. For last month’s Genre Grandeur, I reviewed Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. If you read that review, you would remember that I enjoyed the film. One of the reasons why was the martial arts choreography. But just because there are martial arts in Romeo Must Die, does that mean I’ll enjoy it as much as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? Thanks for joining me for this review, as we’re now about to answer that question!

Romeo Must Die poster
Romeo Must Die poster created by Silver Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures. Image found at https://www.warnerbros.com/movies/romeo-must-die/.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Last Halloween, I reviewed Queen of the Damned. Aaliyah’s portrayal of Queen Akasha is one of the things I liked about that film. I’m not sure how much acting experience she had prior to being cast in Romeo Must Die. But I was very impressed with her performance! The acting material Aaliyah was given allowed her portrayal of Trish to be versatile and well-rounded. In a scene where she shares a childhood memory involving her brother, I felt sympathy toward Trish and her situation. Before watching Romeo Must Die, I had never seen a movie starring Jet Li. However, I enjoyed seeing his performance in this film! One scene shows his character, Han, being informed of his brother’s death. In that scene, there was so much emotion in his facial expressions and body language, that those things were able to convey a message without the use of dialogue. This whole cast was very talented! Not only were they able to pull off a dramatic performance, some actors even delivered a comedic performance. A great example is Anthony Anderson’s portrayal of Maurice. While there were times when this character could be menacing, there were times when he was hilarious. One of the funniest scenes is when Maurice accidently destroys a CD display.

 

The martial arts choreography: The martial arts sequences in Romeo Must Die brought something special to the project! Because this is an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, it helps this version of the story stand out from other cinematic retellings. I wasn’t able to find out who choregraphed these sequences. But whoever they are, they deserve recognition for their hard work and effort! All of the martial arts sequences were choregraphed well. They were fast enough to keep up the film’s pace, but not fast enough to confuse audience members with what is happening on screen. Some of the martial arts were incorporated in very creative ways! One example was when it was used during a football game. Since I haven’t seen something like that before, I thought it was a new and exciting way to see martial arts in film!

 

The modernization of Romeo and Juliet: As I said in the introduction, I’ve seen other modern adaptations of Romeo and Juliet. Romeo Must Die’s take on this story was very interesting and made some improvements to the source material. In this movie, the division between the protagonists’ families is given a better and more clear explanation. Business and cultural/racial differences are what creates a separation for these characters. Also, the protagonists, Han and Trish, are aged up. Having them be of adult age actually helps them play a significant contribution to the narrative, allowing them to make an impact on their families and the conflict surrounding them. This is different from the titular characters in William Shakespeare’s story, where they aren’t given much to do because of their youth.

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Martial arts image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/red”>Red vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com. 

What I didn’t like about the film:

No romance for Trish and Han: Romance plays an important role in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. In fact, the majority of that story revolves around the relationship of the titular characters. In Romeo Must Die, there was a relationship between the protagonists, Han and Trish. But this relationship was not romantic. This adaptation placed more focus on the division between the rivaling families. Han and Trish’s roles were to solve the mysteries between a series of murders. I understand that the creative team behind Romeo Must Die wanted to present the source material in a new way. But excluding romance takes away an essential part of Romeo and Juliet’s identity.

 

A limited use of martial arts: In my review of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, I shared that I didn’t like how the film’s martial arts sequences were featured for a limited amount of time on screen. Romeo Must Die has a similar flaw. The 2000 released project is classified as an action movie, so these sequences had a greater presence on film. But it felt like the martial arts were incorporated at select moments. Like I said in my Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon review, a 50/50 balance was not found. Because the story put more emphasis on the rivaling families’ division, there were more dialogue focused scenes.

 

The character of Roth and his business team: One of the story-points in Romeo Must Die involves the construction of a football stadium. This part of the story introduced the character of Vincent Roth and his business team. I think the actors who portrayed these characters did a good job with the acting material they were given. But the characters themselves were under-utilized. Compared to the other characters in the film, Roth and his team didn’t play as significant of a role as they could have. If anything, it felt like these characters were there for the sake of being there.

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Photo of Oakland, California city created by David Mark at pixabay.com. Image by <a href=”https://pixabay.com/users/12019-12019/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=96413″>David Mark</a> from <a href=”https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=96413″>Pixabay</a&gt;. Image found at pixabay.com.

My overall impression:

To review or not to review, that is the question (yes, that Shakespeare reference was intentional). Sure, I’m not going to be the first movie blogger to make that reference. But I probably won’t be the last! Adaptations of William Shakespeare’s works have been around since the beginning of cinema. Whether these adaptations are classical or modern, they prove there are various different ways to approach the source material. Romeo Must Die is a great example of this. Because of the creative team’s perspective on the story, they were able to create a project that had its own identity and added some unique elements to the narrative. Because of this, I found the movie to be one of the better cinematic versions of this story! By making this an action movie and featuring a mystery within the script, it created a sense of intrigue and suspense for the project. It also helped me stay invested in the film. While this movie does have its flaws, it also has strong components that I liked about it. When I learned that Romeo Must Die was a modern retelling of Romeo and Juliet with martial arts, I was hoping to, at least, get some enjoyment out of it. After watching it, I can now say this idea was well executed!

 

Overall score: 7.6 out of 10

 

Have you ever seen Romeo Must Die? Which adaptation of William Shakespeare’s stories do you like the most? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Review

Yes, I’m at it again. I’m participating in another Genre Grandeur! After a brief hiatus in October, I was ready to take on whatever challenge came my way. For November, the theme was chosen by David from Blueprint Review. In this Genre Grandeur, they wanted participants to talk about Hong Kong Martial Arts Movies. Whatever movie I picked, I knew this would be a special review. That’s because this is the first time I’ve ever reviewed a martial arts film! To figure out which movies qualified of this event, I searched for possible titles on the internet. One of the most well-known films that I saw on one list was Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Over the years, I have heard of this movie. But I had never gotten around to watching it. Now, because of MovieRob and David, I finally have an excuse to check it out!

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon poster
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon poster created by Sony Pictures Classics, Columbia Pictures Film Production Asia, Good Machine International, Edko Films, Zoom Hunt Productions, China Film Co-Production Corp., and Asian Union Film & Entertainment Ltd. Image found at https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0190332/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0.

Things I liked about the film:

The character interactions: Throughout the film, there were several character interactions that took place. This aspect of the overall project was very enjoyable for me to see. One reason was because these interactions shared key components of the story, allowing important details to be expressed and character development to take place. The second reason is how these interactions appeared on screen. Because this cast is talented, it gives the actors and actresses the opportunity to present these interactions in a way that feels believable and sincere. Whether it was the camaraderie between Li Mu Bai and Yu Shu Lien or the heart-felt encounters between Jen Yu and Lo, each interaction enhanced the material for both the characters and the overall story.

 

The martial arts choreography: The martial arts sequences that are featured in this movie were one of the strongest elements of the project! That’s because of how well choreographed each sequence was. Created by Yuen Wo-Ping, each martial arts movement appeared fast, yet smooth. It seemed like every opponent was engaging in a dance, with each one taking turns in the situation. There were times when some the characters looked like they were flying. This made them appear powerful, like their training had helped them gain a super power. The overall technique was precise and well-thought out. This shows how great of a job Yuen Wo-Ping did when it came to planning these sequences!

 

The scenery: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon excels when it comes to the scenery! There were several natural landscapes featured in this film that were simply breath-taking! What helps was how well they were captured on film. Long and establishing shots showed the audience the true magnificence of these locations. The set designs also played a role in making the scenery memorable. Every set appears authentic for the film’s specific time period. They are also well staged, setting up the scene in a visually appealing way. These key ingredients created a cinematic world that felt immersive.

Tiger in Thailand zoo
Tiger image created by Chevanon at freepik.com.  <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/tiger-looking-straight-ahead_999674.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/pattern”>Pattern image created by Chevanon – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The presentation of the subtitles: This is not the first time I’ve reviewed a film that chose to use subtitles. In fact, I have found myself enjoying these movies, such as Les Enfants Terribles and Vampyr. But it’s not the subtitles that were the issue. The color of the subtitles was the flaw, as they were presented in yellow. While it made them easier to see against darker backgrounds, it was difficult to see them against light backgrounds. This was especially the case whenever someone wore a white outfit. To me, I feel that the subtitles should have been presented in the color red. That way, it could have been seen with almost any background.

 

Limited use of martial arts sequences: As I said earlier, I really liked the martial art sequences in this film. However, in the overall project, these sequences were very limited. When I think of a typical martial arts film, I think of it as a part of the action genre, where at least fifty percent of the movie is action-packed. With Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the majority of the film focused on the character and story development. This choice causes the movie to not have that 50/50 balance that I was expecting. I found there to be more dialogue-focused scenes than action-focused scenes.

 

A mystery that was too easy to solve: In Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, there was a mystery surrounding the disappearance of a legendary, priceless sword. Through dialogue and martial arts sequences, it becomes more obvious who the thief is. I’m not going to spoil the reveal if you haven’t the seen the movie. But, shortly after this particular character was introduced, I knew that they were the guilty culprit. Instead of attempting to solve the mystery alongside the characters, I ended up just waiting for the reveal to take place. It made this part of the story less intriguing.

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Traditional Chinese dragon image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/design”>Design vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

I’m always grateful whenever MovieRob invites me to join Genre Grandeur. This event, like almost any blogathon, gives me a good excuse to watch films that I might have never seen otherwise. Like I said in the introduction, I had not seen Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon before. But I’m glad that I finally gave it a chance! This is not just a good martial arts film or a good foreign film. It’s a good film in general! Yes, there were things about it that I wasn’t a fan of, including the ending. But there are components that make me like and appreciate the movie for what it is. I want to thank MovieRob for, once again, inviting me to Genre Grandeur. I also want to thank David, from Blueprint Review, for choosing November’s theme. It gave me a reason to, finally, review a martial arts film for 18 Cinema Lane!

 

Overall score: 7.7 out of 10

 

Do you have a favorite martial arts film? What is your favorite part about these types of films? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen