Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Shaolin Temple 3: Martial Arts of Shaolin (3 Stars)

This is the third and final film in Jet Li's Shaolin Temple trilogy, made in 1986. The trilogy doesn't end with a bang, it ends with a whimper. I've seen most of Jet Li's films, I'm a big fan of his, but this is the worst so far. In my opinion, at least. I've read other reviews that praise this movie so highly that I wonder if they were watching the same film as me.

In this film, unrelated to the first two parts of the trilogy, Jet Li plays Zhi Ming, a trainee in a Shaolin temple who was taken in by the temple as an orphan when he was a young child. Unknown to the monks he has spent all his life planning revenge against the warlord who was responsible for his father's death. When he first leaves the temple to attempt revenge he's interrupted by two other young people, a man and a woman, also trying to take revenge on the same warlord. These two people are "secular residents" who live within the grounds of another Shaolin temple in the south. After this they join forces to attack the warlord together. A subplot is that the woman wears a bracelet around her ankle that identifies her as the woman that Zhi was pledged to marry at birth.

The films fights are less spectacular than those in the first two films, though they make up for it by taking place in dazzling locations, including a battle on top of the Chinese Wall. An interesting film, and I'm sure that Jet's fans will want to watch it, but overall disappointing.

It's amusing to be as a Westerner how important food is to the Chinese. A recurring theme in Jet Li's films, not just in this trilogy, is the problem of the Shaolin monks being vegetarian. They're never shown as being happy in this, they're always looking for an excuse to eat meat, knowing that "Buddha will understand". In Western countries vegetarianism is accepted as an alternative lifestyle, but to the Chinese with their great love for food it's something inconceivable. In this film Zhi Ming is shown sneaking out of the temple to roast a snake to put in his bread buns, and when a leading monk accidentally eats it his face lights up with joy.

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