Saturday, 18 June 2016

Demon Empire

Made in 2006, DEMON EMPIRE is a superb Korean movie that fans of Tsui Hark’s Zu Warriors (either version) should enjoy. After he saves a village from demons, local folks and ungrateful wretches, betray their vagabond saviour, Yi Gwak (Jung Woo-sung, from Musa: The Warrior and The Good, The Bad, The Weird) to his enemies in a wicked dynasty. The superhero takes a fall, but wakes amidst the towering pagodas of ‘Midheaven’ for his purgatory walkabout, supposedly awaiting reincarnation, although he’s not actually dead. Yi Gwak is reunited with lost love Yon–hwa, but she’s now a higher spiritual being without memories of her previous mortal existence…  

It’s a romantically tragic fairytale about transcendent love, misplaced guilt and the importance of forgiveness, but Demon Empire never stoops to be simply preachy. This is also an enjoyably spectacular fantasy actioner with flying daggers, boomerang swords, chain-whips like living tentacles, much CGI, and wire fu galore. Yi Gwak follows a philosophical path, intent upon protecting the human world, not changing it, so chief villain Ban–chu, who sits on a hot–tub throne, becomes so angered by our hero’s morality that his hair turns white as he calls forward an apocalyptic blood Moon.

There’s a requisite mcguffin - the ‘holy stone’ of ultimate power, as symbolised by sacrificial angelic heroine Yon-hwa, whose tortured body radiates glorious light. For the grand finale, there’s a citadel–wide mêlée as Yi Gwak single-handedly takes on an entire army. Demon Empire is not a masterpiece, or a breathtaking epic, but it’s at least on a par with the likes of Goemon.

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