Friday, October 7, 2011


1911 (辛亥革命)

1911 To commemorate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, an epic film "The Founding of a Republic" (建国大业) was released in 2009 in China. To commemorate the 90th anniversary of the founding of Chinese Communist Party, another epic film "Beginning of the Great Revival" (建党伟业) was released last year. October 10, 2011 marks the centennial anniversary of the Xinhai Revolution (辛亥革命), which overthrew Qing Dynasty—the last imperial dynasty in China. Therefore, it is understood to have a high expectation for another grand scale film to commemorate the centennial anniversary of Xinhai Revolution this year.

Co-directed with Zhang Li, Jackie Chan's 100th (I am not the one who counted) film "1911" (辛亥革命 | China 2011 | in Chinese | 118 min.) aims to deliver such a spectacular epic. Unfortunately, like its two precedents, the film focuses more on reenacting what happened, instead of telling stories about why and how those events happened and who these revolutionaries were.

At the turn of last century, Sun Yat-sen (Winston Chao) and his comrades, including Huang Xing (Jackie Chan), lead an underground organization called Tong Meng Hui (同盟会 - Chinese Revolutionary Alliance). Tong Meng Hui wants to found a new republic. Its goal is to start a revolution, Xinhai Revolution, to abolish the Qing Dynasty, presiding by a child emperor Puyi and Empress Dowager Longyu (Joan Chen). The film conventionally chronicles the major uprisings during Xinhai Revolution fought by those brave young souls in Tong Meng Hui against the royal army led by the political savvy Yuan Shikai (Chun Sun).

Without a fair amount of knowledge about Chinese history, the flashing of name tags on the screen hardly offers any help to the audience about these historical figures, especially when the film's script pays little attention in developing its characters.

Like portraits printed on paper, both Sun Yat-sen and Huang Xing are good looking but lifeless in the film, besides the fact that Jackie Chan is 20 years older than Huang Xing in 1911.

On top of that, some scenes are plain laughable. For instance, when Sun Yat-sen returns to China from oversea exile, Sun Yat-sen and Huang Xing are calling out each other on a ship. Of course, they eventually meet at a spot designated by the directors. The scene looks like a reunion of a young couple in love from a Korean drama. Since Jackie Chan plays the lead, the film not only prevents him from being killed by bullets or bombs in a battlefield, it even manages to include a kung fu fighting scene, which is completely out of the place. Even the kung fu fighting is very brief, the damage to the film is already done.

Jackie Chan as Huang Xing, a Chinese revolutionary leader, in a scene from 1911

However, one exception is the creation of a in-depth character—sly Yuan Shikai, who literally steals the spotlight of the film. Yuan Shikai knows how to manipulate the political rivals and power, with only one goal in mind: to benefit himself. He might be the only character that resides with you after you finish the film.

"1911" has its ambition and shows its spectacle visual, but it is trapped into the footsteps of "The Founding of a Republic" and "Beginning of the Great Revival." As a result, it neither provides inspiration from these revolutionaries nor serves as a review to the history. Luckily, there are books and the internet for that.

"1911," a Well Go USA Entertainment and Variance Films release, opens on Friday, October 7, 2011 at Bay Area theaters.

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