What the Hell is this Dragon Blade trailer? When was the last time that a swords and sandal epic was actually worth anything? Well, here we get a major film produced in China starring Adrien Brody, John Cusack, and Jackie Chan. The film was originally titled, “Tian jiang xiong shi”; literally, “Celestial General, Heroic Army” which is an infinitely better name than the generic “Dragon Blade”, especially since I am pretty sure there will be zero dragons and zero mystical blades. The plot focuses on a battle in antiquity over control of the Silk Road between corrupt Roman generals and Chinese tribes during the Han Dynasty. Somehow, I have watched this trailer three times and have managed to avoid even a single seizure from the dozens of quick cuts. I have, however, scoffed aplenty at the flat line readings, ridiculous dialogue, and downright confusing plot. Have a look:
The trailer opens with Brody’s voice-over whispering about how cool his army is, and then jump-cuts a few sword fights. This will become a trend. We are then introduced to another Roman general named Lucius (Cusack) and Jackie Chan’s character. They develop a plan to join forces against Adrien Brody, I think. Listen to the line readings from Cusack in particular – they are as wooden as I have ever heard from a veteran actor. He seriously sounds like he is reading off a cue card, and I can’t understand how such a thing happened. Jackie Chan delivers a line, “I want to help you” that is equally hamfisted. What is happening? These people can act; I have seen it!
Oh my God the jump cuts! I tried to count the number of cuts in the trailer and gave up. They can’t even let simple expository dialogue happen without three cuts! In fact, sometimes they can’t even let a single actors lines go uncut! Listen closely from 0:52-0:55, when the following words all happen (I doubt I can call it a “line” with any accuracy): “Move the soldiers to the Silk Road, we will meet him”. This “line” has three different characters reading it. The words “Silk Road” are clearly spoken by a different character (or, at least, from the same character but in a different scene) than the words that come before and after them. Why can’t this movie just rely on actual spoken lines from the film in its trailer? Is there really a need to splice together such a meaningless piece of exposition? This is frightening.
This film has all the markings of a train wreck: an uninspired and frankly overly complicated storyline, A-list actors who appear to be phoning it in, and gratuitous cutting and editing which, if the trailer is any indication of what we will see in the film, would make Michael Bay blush. Of course, I am judging this simply on what is shown in the trailer, and it is entirely possible that the marketing department has absolutely no idea how to showcase this film for American audiences and simply decided to show as many sword fights, armies, and weapons as possible, coherence be damned. I know the film has enjoyed reasonable success in its native China, but if what we have seen in this trailer is true of Dragon Blade in general, it may be on a one-way trip to Flop City.