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Movie Review: Heavenly Sword

Heavenly Sword cover art


@HellingsOnFilm takes a gander at Heavenly Sword...

Synopsis:
Heavenly Sword is a dramatic tale of revenge that sees Nariko (Anna Torv), a fiery red-haired heroine, embark on a quest for vengeance against the invading King Bohan (Alfred Molina) and his army. Once considered the failure of a legendary prophecy, Nariko must wield a sword that was ultimately meant for another. This ancient Heavenly Sword, once belonging to a powerful deity, can never be wielded by a mortal without it slowly and inevitably killing them. For Nariko, it is a race against time to avenge her clan before her life is irreparably overtaken by the omnipotent Heavenly Sword.

Director: Gun Ho Jang.
Writer: Todd Farmer.
Voice talent: Anna Torv, Ashleigh Ball, Alfred Molina.

Review:

When it comes to animated fantasy films, it’s still hard to beat Ralph Bakshi and Frank Frazetta’s 1983 classic Fire and Ice; Bakshi’s Wizards; even Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within looked good, even if it wasn’t particularly great as a film. Then of course Avatar came along and set the bar high in terms of visual style. John Milius’ live action Conan the Barbarian is still tough to beat in the fantasy genre or, for pure entertainment, Terry Marcel’s Hawk the Slayer is still great fun. In terms of half decent animated horror films, Resident Evil: Degeneration was good, Resident Evil: Damnation was even better. Heavenly Sword is based on a Playstation video game, so how has it transferred to the screen?

To begin with, I’m not a gamer, but I am an RPG player (Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, its gothic horror spin off Ravenloft, and the extremely dark and adult Lamentations of the Flame Princess (which you should definitely keep away from children). Heavenly Sword looks like PS3 cinematic sequences made into a feature, so if you happen to like that kind of animation, you won’t mind the visual style of the film which, for a relatively low budget, looks pretty lush and impressive (although the narrated flashback story scenes are even more nicely done in a ‘cartoon’ style which would have been worth pursuing for the entire film, but the target market seems to be for followers of the game, so it’s probably unlikely they would have gone for that, which is a pity).

The voice talent are mainly western actors: an understandable move in terms of international sales, but it would be nice to hear some local actors being used in animated films for a change. Still, they do a good job with dialogue that is well written.

Heavenly Sword image


The look of Heavenly Sword is impressive, creating a world that is engaging, at times bloody and dark, with characters that are enjoyable and worth following.

In terms of ‘cursed sword’ stories, it’s impossible to beat Michael Moorcock’s seminal Elric series (which have still not made it to the screen and probably never will). Whilst understandably lacking the depth of such source material as this or Tolkien or Howard or any of the other great Fantasy writers, Heavenly Sword is nonetheless an enjoyable and entertaining piece. It’s also refreshing to see a fantasy film that has strong female characters in the lead (Red Sonja sadly didn’t work out, remember that one? No? Well, it is best forgotten). How Heavenly Sword will be received by fans of the game, who knows? But, for those without a connection to the origin, it’s a fun, well-made piece that has many nice moments and is a rewarding way to spend your time.
Worth your time.

David Paul Hellings

Twitter: @HellingsOnFilm

Images: clout communications

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