When it comes to martial arts, Jet Li's Fearless delivers, but everything else is just blah, blah, blah. I realize that these movies aren't really about the plot… but is it that hard to make it engaging? Fearless is the story of a prodigy's reckless youth, the (self-inflicted) tragedy that causes him to go into exile and think hard about his life, and then his return with transcending maturity and eventual martyrdom. In no way does the younger character feel connected to the older one. It might be me applying Western expectations to an Eastern story, but I like to see a character grow instead of be replaced. We're an individualist culture, and like to see the soul of a character persist through a transformation. Jet Li's character's change isn't properly explained. It's like you take trauma followed by a breath of fresh air and out pops perfection. Formula for success. Maybe I just demand a few more flaws from my hero characters.
Anyway, Jet Li kicks butt 'n stuff, and it's all very pretty. No nearly as pretty as Hero or Crouching Tiger, but still pretty. The film was marketed as being Jet Li's last epic martial arts film, which made me very confused when I recently saw ads on a bus for The Forbidden Kingdom with Jet Li and Jackie Chan. Not that I'm complaining: that sounds like a great idea. It could be spectacularly awful (the fate of the world rests on the shoulders of a teenage boy… again?), but the match-up will no doubt be incredible.
Anyway, you won't be wasting your time with Fearless; it's entertaining. But it left me feeling a little empty.