Wednesday, 24 December 2014

[Movie Review] Heavenly Sword (2014)

Heavenly Sword is a movie adaptation of a video game franchise published by the Sony Playstation Network. It is an animated feature film released in 2014 and it features Anna Torv (from the Fringe TV show) as the voice of the main character Nariko.

The story is a classic sword and sorcery where an usurper king comes to claim a legendary sword that was once brought to instill peace in the land plagued by warfare. The sword is guarded by a clan chosen by the deity who first made the sword but it is cursed and it is prophesised that only the son of the clan chieftain, the chosen one, can wield it and defeat the King.

The story follows Nariko and Kai who travel in search of the brother they have never known to bestow the sword upon him so he may rid the land of evil, all the while fighting their own battles along the way.

[spoilers follow below]

First of all, the quality of the animation, while not being top of the line is good enough to not be distracting. There are a few hiccups here and there with the physics engine but if the fight sequences are anything to judge the movie by, it is definitely in the upper half of the quality scale.

The voices however vary greatly. Anna Torv's performance is as good as you would expect but there is a certain lack of depth to the voices in the final mix. Kai on the other hand suffers from a rather poor voice acting from Ashleigh Ball trying to perform a child-like, yet mildly deranged young female. The result is rather stereotypically over the top, which is a shame. Other characters have the same problem, but overall it isn't cringe-worthy enough to be unlistenable.

Onto the story itself, it is clear that the sword is the central character to the whole story. From the premise you start making all sorts of assumptions, that the women are merely messengers, that the sword is somehow sentient and decides who is able to wield it. It is the fact that both these assumptions are shattered in the second half of the movie which make the whole experience of journeying with Nariko and Kai so interesting.

The sword itself is not unlike Cloud Strife's buster sword: full of tricks, bulky, deadly and can divide into multiple weapons. This enables a much more interesting set of visuals for what would otherwise be a rather standard series of fights. And like the buster sword, it is utterly unrealistic as a practical real-life weapon.

One slight detail that bothered me in the rendering of the characters is that Nariko is a tall, slender, red-haired woman with a very western, or at least anime-like, appearance, while everyone else is very Asian (read Chinese / Japanese) in appearance, including Nariko's father. On the other hand, despite her scant clothing, she was not meant to be overly sexualised which helps reinforce the message of her being a strong warrior female type.

Because in the end the message I took was that this was about one woman who has been rejected by her father her whole life for not being a boy and turn her fate around by mastering the sword and its curse and ending the hero no one, save her sister, never saw her as.

I would personally give it a good 8/10

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