Imagine a world where women have subjugated and objectified men, the nightmare of misandry. It’s wrong but cathartic isn’t it? Hong Kong film Blade of Kings indulges this premise in fantasy: a tyrannical queen has enslaved all men and outlawed love. Gillian Chung and Charlene Choi take the focus of the film as strong female leads with conflicting interests that are working together. Jaycee Chan and Bolin Chen play a comedic duo with pleasantly contrasting personalities. Jackie Chan has a cameo appearance in his son’s debut in a kung fu showdown with Donnie Yen as well. The love stories are sweet, the female-dominated action scenes plentiful, and the adventure comedic. I found this film vastly entertaining despite its convoluted plot.
A stone plaque is stolen from the palace by a group of male freedom fighters led by a man called “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” It is a map to the location of the “Excalibur,” a magic sword that can only be wielded by the future King. Blue Bird, a law enforcer for the Queen’s eunuch High Priest, is sent out to search for the plaque and the thief. She crosses paths with 13th Master, a slave trader whose auction was disturbed by the pursuit. Her merchandise is temporarily confiscated by a government Marshal and offered a deal to repay her debts. The heartbreak causing the Queen’s perversity is revealed and her ruthlessness is shown by her readiness to execute, and the entrapment of her prophetic sister in a cave wall. The stone plaque map makes its way to an illegal Elizabethan-styled theater where two young men perform. Charcoal Head and Blockhead are lured away from their troupe by the promise of treasure. They team up with ambitious 13th Master and Bluebird who has her own hidden agenda. Swing from comedy to drama, the group are besieged on their adventures by a Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, a renegade law enforcer, a wolf tribe, cave people, and of course by the Queen herself.
Sprawling subplots are proof of a larger world than the four main characters which may seem unfocused, but high energy and absurd events effectively holds audience attention. Some of the confusion may be caused by English translations. European concepts like Amazons and Excalibur possess familiar connotations and are used to express meaning in Cantonese. This, the magic, and Science-Fiction inspired set and costume designs make me feel like I am watching a story set on a different planet. Though the enslavement of males is often used for comedic effect, there are reminders of the unfairness of one sex degrading another. It is shown how great is the human capacity for forgiveness, for people to be able to love their oppressors and seek equality and freedom. It is a feminist film after all.