Moon Warriors is a beautiful film, an epic sprawling martial arts adventure which is credited as providing the inspiration for more recent smash hits such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero. Sammo Hung directs the film and it features an all-star cast.
The plot is straightforward, the 13th Prince, Yen has been driven from the throne by the evil 14th Prince and his band of "Royal Thieves". He meets a simple fisherman called Fei who intervenes to save the King without knowing who he is and subsequently joins the uprising. Yen and his followers take refuge in his ancestral tomb and plot the downfall of his nemesis who is meanwhile busily rampaging around the countryside murdering indiscriminately in his search for Yen.
The film blends some breathtaking and heavily stylised battles together with a dramatic back story, a romance and some light comedy. The action is beautifully choreographed with top quality wire work resulting in stunning sword fights in which the combatants leap around all over the place. There is also a great deal of use of fantastic settings and colourful outfits to create a unique visual style. Some of the set pieces in the film are very memorable, such as the cute wee band of royal kite flyers who are murdered and then replaced by assassins who run towards their target and release the kites simultaneously spawning a horde of deadly ninjas.
Sammo trained with Jackie Chan as a child and after acting in a number of films he has developed an excellent directorial talent which is clear throughout this film. His knowledge of how to shoot fight scenes is invaluable in a production like this and the settings chosen are simply gorgeous, especially the idyllic looking fishing village where Fei resides.
Fei is sent to retrieve Princess Yuet who is to marry Yen and the two begin to form a close relationship. Meanwhile one of Yen´s closest bodyguards Hsien is actually working for the enemy but luckily for Yen she has fallen in love with him and decided not to follow through with the assassination. Considering how Hsien is treated by her evil master it comes as no surprise that she is happy to switch sides.
The script is rather cheesy and so too is most of the music which accompanies the romantic subplots. Fei and Yuet develop feelings for each other which cannot be realised and Hsien harbours her doomed love for Yen. None of the romances are given time to blossom as the 14th Prince invades the fishing village of Fei and locates the embattled Yen setting up nicely for the big end set-piece battle which you knew was coming.
The cast is excellent, Fei is played by the likeable Andy Lau, Hsien is played by the gorgeous Maggie Cheung. Kenny Bee does a good job as the slightly naive 13th Prince Yen Ling and Anita Mui is very convincing as the pampered Princess. The cartoon villain is played by Kelvin Wong.
The film was released in 1993 and comes in at just under an hour and half. This is a visually stunning film, with great direction and quality acting. Not as serious or polished as something like Hero but still very memorable and enjoyable to watch.