- Action scenes are many and some times overly long.
- Some of the battle formations are well-loved Chinese tales. They may seem very weird to those not familiar with the stories.
- Many historical inaccuracies, as reported by movie critics.
- The one historical inaccuracy I noted was that in the film, Zhu Ge Liang is younger than Zhou Yu. But since the actor who plays Zhu Ge Liang is none other than the handsome Takeshi Kaneshiro, who has just broken a barrier in the fashion industry, I do not mind! Plus, Zhu Ge Liang is my favorite character from the whole Three Kingdoms stories anyway.
- The Chinese government wanted Red Cliff to be a showcase of Chinese culture, and a showcase of Chinese culture it is. At times it seems a bit ridiculous – the characters cycle through Chinese calligraphy, painting, music (with qin and flute), courtesans, sports, all with John Woo’s signature slo-mo shots. and even some weird freeze shots in the music playing scenes.
- The sex scene(s) go on really long for a Chinese film. and they’re pretty explicit. But I thought it was tasteful.
- A lot of doves, as per John Woo-directing methodology. Actually they’re pigeons, but they look like doves.
- Two main female characters – Xiao Qiao and Sun Shangxiang. Xiao Qiao is the wife of Zhou Yu (she’s the only fictional character with a major role in the film) and Sun Shangxiang is the princess of the Wu kingdom family (little sister of Sun Quan). They don’t see each other so they don’t speak to each other. Thus the film doesn’t pass the Bechdel test.
- Xiao Qiao follows the traditional “good wife” role. She likes animals. She’s caring. She’s not incompetent though. She successfully bandages Zhou Yu when he is injured (big whoop). Then it’s implied that they have sex. Actually, she’s really not incompetent, despite the sarcastic tone before. she just doesn’t have good speaking lines and no good actions.
- Sun Shangxiang is a tomboy. She is playful, smart, able to keep up with her brothers. She’s clever. She plays a crucial role in the last battle of the movie. She has a bunch of warrior maids who follow her around. When her brother tries to arrange a marriage for her, she exits the room while all the other males laugh and dismiss her (but not after she pulls a pretty kick-ass move). However, Zhu Ge Liang follows her and is the only person who accepts her as she is. (And as one of the starring roles, gives her validation.)
- Even in China, there are Chinese subtitles above English subtitles. I liked the translations.
- The battles look pretty good because all the people are real people. However, some of the extras weren’t in character. Sometimes it looked like a History Channel re-enactment. Except with way better makeup and costumes and all that jazz.
- Really amazing scenery.
- Special effects were pretty good. Some of the panoramic shots were noticeably created with special effects, but it wasn’t laughable or bothersome. I thought the whole special effects portion of the movie was really well done.
- Cao Cao gets another motivation for conquering southern China – he wants Xiao Qiao. I don’t think this is historically accurate. Aaand I’m not quite sure what to think about this. Another romance thread for the story? Not in my book. He wants to own her, not love her. Besides, she and Zhou Yu love each other already, in the movie.
I watched the first half of the movie, which came out a couple days ago in Eastern Asia. In the U.S., a shortened (by 90 minutes) 2 1/2 hour release is currently scheduled for January.
The first half ends right before the actual battle at Red Cliff, the famous naval battle. There’s a brief shot of Cao Cao’s land-based forces getting sick on the ships, followed (not immediately) by a nice shot of Zhu Ge Liang setting fire to model ships, again foreshadowing the events of the battle.