Dynasty Warriors (2021) — Watch for the action, not the plot

Wolfy’s review: On one level, I have to appreciate that Dynasty Warriors was unapologetic in its presentation. This movie knew it was a goofy video game film where one person would cut their way through hundreds of foes, and it absolutely leaned into that. On the other hand, it seemed barely capable of being a movie in terms of plot and pacing and story and everything else that makes a film work.

There really cannot be enough said about the visuals of this film. The cinematography is incredible, the sets that were created for the movie are astonishing, the costumes were gorgeous, and the fight scenes were as bombastic and game-like as possible. In a game series that prides itself on huge action set pieces, the film 100% nails it.

With that all said, the things that link those visuals and fight scenes together are either boring, not well thought out, or poorly paced. At the early part of the film it decided to write a long backstory for one of the film’s characters, Cao Cao. One of the villains of the movie, Lu Bu, apparently stops a woman from committing suicide and immediately proposes to her (and she accepts because whatever).

At the end of the film, it decides to blip forward to a few years later because everything that’s set up to that point is never resolved as the movie decides to close on a frankly overoptimistic cliffhanger for a sequel that wants to tell the Romance of the Three Kingdoms storyline; the overarching subplot of ending the treacherous reign of Dong Zhuo is literally just brushed away, most of the good guys decide to be bad guys, and the final battle with Lu Bu ends in a stalemate.

But hey, there was a point where three guys learned how to power up the weapons they were handed by a magical smoke wizardess with their own blood, Cao Cao managed to slide his horse on its side several feet to avoid falling trees, and there were plenty of shots of nameless soldiers being blown up into the air with magical weapon effects. Those were fun.

Honestly, the film felt like those impressive and remarkable action pieces were shot first and then the rest of the movie was cobbled together after that. None of the characters ended up being interesting, none of their motivations were engaging, and after a certain length of time where it tried to plod along with a story, I was getting antsy to see some more ridiculous fight scenes.

If you really must watch this film, do yourself a favor and fast forward through the character story portions. I promise you’re not missing much, and there’s no real need for context anyway. Like the game series this movie is based on, Dynasty Warriors is better when you skip the cutscenes and get right to the fighting.

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