For the past few years, we’ve been seeing a lot of live-action adaptations from various source materials. Of course, we’re all familiar with the live-action adaptations of Disney classics like Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast. However, there are many movie adaptations from video games as well. Dynasty Warriors seems to be one of the games joining the roster as it makes its international debut this July. What can you expect from this new film coming to Netflix? Here’s everything you need to know.
An Overview: Live-Action Dynasty Warriors
If you were already a fan of Dynasty Warriors, then the news of it coming to Netflix might excite you. After all, what better way to add more to the experience than to see your favorite game in movie form?
However, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard of a Dynasty Warriors live-action adaptation happening. In fact, the film was first announced a couple of years back before it was delayed multiple times. Thankfully, production never halted and we can finally see it on the big screen today. That is if you have a big enough screen at home to watch it on Netflix.
On the other hand, the official Dynasty Warriors has been around for a couple of months now. However, it only launched worldwide on Netflix this July 2021. Why is that? Well, that’s because the first premiere for the movie was isolated to Hong Kong. That’s unsurprising with the movie being Cantonese. Afterward, Dynasty Warriors was released slowly throughout Mainland China before it hit Netflix.
Some may find it curious that Dynasty Warrriors was released in Hong Kong and China first. However, that isn’t surprising given the popular series was based on a Chinese epic entitled Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Let’s just be happy that the movie is finally available for international fans.
The movie adaptation follows Koei Tecmo’s game pretty well, following the same premise and era. It stars Tony Yo-Ning Yang as Liu Bei, the main character. His co-stars, Louis Koo, Kai Wang, and Ray Luy play Lu Bu, Cao Cao, and Yuan Shao, respectively. Moreover, Carina Lau and Justin Cheung also join them as the Master of the Sword Forge Castle and Zhang Fei. The movie was produced by Jr. Stephen Siu, Albert Wing-Ho Lee, and Chi-long To.
The Story of Dynasty Warriors
If you’re familiar with the game, then perhaps you might already know the story of the Dynasty Warriors movie. After all, the plot also follows the game’s portrayal of the political unrest during the fall of the Late Han Dynasty. It tackles the struggle between ancient China’s three kingdoms — Wei, Wu, and Shu — and zooms in on one particular storyline.
According to the Netflix synopsis, the story follows Liu Bei, the first leader of Shu Han. During the events of the movie, Liu Bei struggles to protect his land during the Yellow Turban Rebellion. Hence, he enlists the help of his trusted men, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei, to suppress the revolt together.
However, enemies and opposing kingdoms are always on the lookout for these kinds of opportunities. As a result, a new problem arises after they successfully suppressed the rebellion. Political unrest always makes kingdoms unstable, and Dong Zhuo, a calculating warlord, takes advantage of that fact. He takes control of the court, causing further political conflict. What will happen to Liu Bei, his men, and his kingdom? That’s what the movie is all about.
Of course, there are many more characters and plot points that Dynasty Warriors explores. However, this is the basic, spoiler-free premise that contains what you need to know before getting into the movie.
Dynasty Warriors: Game vs Film
Adaptations always receive criticism in one form or another for straying too far from the source material. However, the reverse is also true in some sense when the source material’s format just won’t work in film. Hence, many people might compare the original game and the film adaptation and how they differ or stay the same.
In general, both the game and the Dynasty Warriors movie focus heavily on the Three Kingdoms of ancient China. The setting is what mostly stays the same, as well as how both remain heavy on the action. Moreover, a few of the in-game lore do make it to the big screen, but they’re not prominent. Overall, there are big story changes in the film that fans of the game might not recognize.
Differences & Similarities
For one, the movie adaptation doesn’t do anything with the rich lore that fans of the games were fond of. The games provided extensive backstory and history to the three kingdoms. Moreover, they also gave prominence to some other unaffiliated groups and factions.
However, the movie stays rigid and limits its focus, not capitalizing at all on the games’ lore. Instead, it more closely zooms in on three specific characters who are loyal to the Han dynasty. It’s truly a missed opportunity on the director’s part, as lore would have enriched the movie a bit more. Moreover, this narrative difference also makes it difficult for first-time viewers to immerse themselves in the world.
On the other hand, there are also similarities between the adaptation and the original game. One of the key similarities between the game and the film has to do with how the movie was shot. It attempts to replicate the game’s extravagant action sequences with equally over-the-top fighting and action. There are large armies, absurd fighting styles and moves, and heavy metal guitar riffs throughout the movie. The movie also opens with a battle that looks very similar to Dynasty Warriors’ signature battles.
Review: Is Dynasty Warriors Worth Watching?
Let’s be honest. Not many video game-to-film adaptations are truly worth watching. They just don’t work all that often and, unfortunately, the same is true for Dynasty Warriors. If the 25% score on Rotten Tomatoes didn’t put you off, then maybe the 4.8/10-star rating on IMDb will.
Strictly speaking, there was a lot of potential for the game to turn into a decent movie. At the very least, the battles were extravagant and exhilarating enough to translate well into cinema format. Moreover, there was plenty of room to expand on the world-building based on the game. Lastly, historical lore could have been the cherry on top of the whole cake.
However, director Roy Hin Yeung Chow sadly didn’t bank on any of the game’s potential for this adaptation. The two hours you spend sitting through the film makes you even wonder how it was written. That might sound a bit harsh, but it will be explained in a bit. However, before you proceed, do know that there will be spoilers ahead.
For one, there was hardly any backstory for our main characters, Liu Bei, Guan Yu, and Zhang Fei. All we know is that they’re loyal to the Han dynasty and are set on putting things in order. While the chancellor Dong Zhuo may have taken over the situation, they remain loyal to the child emperor, Liu Bian.
However, that’s pretty much all we truly know about these people as they were presented in the movie. The directors seem to have assumed that the audience had prior knowledge about the characters and setting. We don’t know how the trio banded together or why we should care about each of them. Perhaps they assumed that only fans of the Dynasty Warriors games and avid historians would watch the movie? Otherwise, you would be left completely in the dark.
Poorly Written Plot
Of course, sometimes movies can get away with underwriting their characters. Some movies may opt to make up for it with an interesting plot and action. Unfortunately, the plot was also poorly written and leaves loose ends, well, loose. The transitions from one plot point to the next were a little jarring and unprecedented.
For example, Lu Bu, Dong Zhuo’s most powerful warrior, suddenly falls in love with Diao Chan, Dong Zhuo’s lover. It’s a plot point that comes very surprisingly and doesn’t have any build-up. Cao Cao, on the other hand, commits an atrocious act despite being the emperor’s loyal servant. Lastly, the trio we all know doesn’t even put the powers and weapons they acquired to good use.
These plot points, among others, are never revisited or addressed later on in the film. It’s like the writers simply included them without thinking about payoffs or later consequences. While they gave plenty of fan service to die-hard DW fans, those out of the loop are left scratching their heads.
Apart from these awkward plot points, the story also fails to cut through the bloodshed to add emotion. Moreover, the final battle is anticlimactic — which, unfortunately, isn’t shocking given how the events have unfolded so far.
Awful Visual Effects
Fantasy stories like these usually rely on visual effects quite heavily to get their point across. Unfortunately, Dynasty Warriors fails in this regard as well. We would have thought that the movie would get at least this one right. However, the visual effects don’t even measure up to another notoriously bad film in The Last Airbender.
You will especially notice this poor quality in the movements of the soldiers on the battlefield. They’re more like robot-like stick figures than properly rendered 3D extras. The VFX team didn’t put proper care into the 3D assets. As a result, they distract more than add to the overall mood of the scene.
The film’s compositions don’t do any better, either. They feel more like in-game cutscenes meant for a video game. The footage may have been fine if they were using it for an actual game’s cutscenes. However, they are nowhere near the kind of footage you might want to see in a big-budget film. Even a regular slideshow on Chromecast can do better than Dynasty Warriors.
The only thing Dynasty Warriors does right visually would probably be the production and costume design. They’re both elegant and vibrant, but not enough to carry the film.
Inspired By Romance of the Three Kingdoms
Like many other games, Dynasty Warriors was heavily inspired by other literature. However, the inspiration for the games (and subsequently, the movie) is a little convoluted because it goes way back. Let me explain.
Dynasty Warriors was initially a spin-off game to another game called Romance of the Three Kingdoms. However, Romance of the Three Kingdoms was also only inspired by a novel of the same name. The original novel, written by Luo Guanzhong in the 14th century, was also only inspired by historical Chinese text. That text, called the Records of the Three Kingdoms, documented details about the late Eastern Han Dynasty.
As a result, Dynasty Warriors does resemble the source material to an extent. It also takes place in the late Eastern Han Dynasty, following the political events that took place. However, it deviates a lot from the original events and, therefore, remains a work of fiction.
The Dynasty Warriors Netflix release might have only come this July 1, 2021. However, the movie has been out for a while in other countries. Its initial release in Hong Kong was on April 29 of this year. They then released the movie across China from April 30 onwards.
The movie was originally going to premiere back in 2018. However, they pushed back the release date by a year to 2019 and delayed it further to 2021. Thankfully, the producers were able to deliver and we finally have the Dynasty Warriors live-action movie this year.
More Dynasty Warriors Content
Dynasty Warriors has been around for two decades. However, there hasn’t been a new update to the series since 2018. Nonetheless, older titles should prove more than enough if you want to dive into the lore after watching the film. The latest title added to the franchise was Dynasty Warriors 9 and is available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
On the other hand, mobile gamers might also have something to look forward to. They’ll have something to play on their phones since a Dynasty Warriors mobile game is reportedly in the works. However, fans might have to wait a while before they can get their hands on the mobile version.
Dynasty Warriors is a fairly successful game franchise that’s been around for two decades. It finally has a movie adaptation which is available internationally through Netflix. Unfortunately, the movie isn’t even worth watching and is quite hard to recommend, even to Dynasty Warriors fans. The plot is jarring and underwhelming and so are the visual effects. Moreover, it isn’t easy to care about the characters given the lack of a backstory unless you know the game. Overall, Dynasty Warriors’ ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb are accurate. If you want to watch it, you can catch it on Netflix right now.