Coming to theaters is an epic Chinese story based off a Japanese manga: Kingdom.
Kingdom is one the grandest cinematic collaborations between China and Japan; audiences in the U.S. will finally see this film in theaters on August 16, 2019. This film involved thousands of horses, hundreds of stuntman, hundreds of crewman and sheer passion to bring a story, based off of a manga that started on January 2006 during Weekly Young Jump, to the screen. It has to be seen on screen.
Witness the beginning of a new era. Around the Spring and Autumn Warring States period, particularly around 245 B.C., the Seven Kingdoms (Qin, Yan, Zhao, Qi, Chu, Han, Wei) were constantly warring. About 500 years of warring chaos over territories and power. It is around this time that Qin Shi Huang, “First Emperor of Qin”, sought to create a more unified China. Kingdom goes closer in the struggles that Qin Shi Huang, also known as Ying Zeng went through.
Before we see the political chaos, we see two orphan slaves that have grown up with a bond deeper than siblings. The orphans, Xin (played by Kento Yamazaki ) and Piao (played by Ryo Yoshizawa), fight with wooden swords among themselves as they dream of earning their freedom to be great swordsman. Their ultimate dream is to become the greatest General of all. Happenstance brings a wandering Noble who eyes Piaos skills and immediately buys his freedom to take to the Palace. Not detered one bit from his dream, Xin continues to train and train until he becomes strong enough to split rocks. Then one night, Piao returns to Xin bloodied and close to death. With his dying breath, he urges Xin to go to a location for a mysterious favor. It is here where Xin discovers the true reason of Piao’s admission into the Kingdom.
From there it becomes a swift track down the warring chaos. Xin scrambles to stay alive for his sake and the sake of the future of China.
Putting aside the historical references, the story is simply the journey to reclaim the throne for a better future. The amusing swipe transitions made an immediate connection to Star Wars . Although Kingdom is not the grand saga timeline of Star Wars, it shares the same passion for fighting against soul-breaking odds for a better future. The movie pits physical strength against moral strength as we witness eye boggling sword fights and emboldened speeches. The stunts are definitely worth a re-watch for its sheer impressive speeds and execution.
Bringing this film to screen is helmed by the directorial efforts of Shinsuke Sato: director (Bleach, The Princess Blade, Library Wars, Death Note- Light Up The New World). Yasuhisa Hara, the original author, also pitched his efforts including adding new lines that don’t appear in the manga. Overall this was not a easy movie to film. First impressive note is that the filming locations were set in two different countries. Filming began in China in April 2018 for 20 days before hopping over to the Japan provinces.
There was also the collaborative efforts of Koji Tajima, who had worked on the concept art for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Blade Runner 2049 as he was in charge of the concept design for the Chouga Tribe. The Chouga Tribe are the mountain people that aid Ying Zeng for a world without boundaries. The tribe are a wild and unruly society. Their warriors are strong and known to fight without rules, often biting savagely into their opponents. To reflect this concept, Tajima created masks by using special urethane, silicon, and other such material to look like they were created from wood, stones, bones, animal skin, and even mud clay. He even went so as to painting them to look like they were colored with grinded fruits or toned by curved rocks.
For the final battle scene, it was inevitable it was going to play out at the Palace. No matter the choice, all of the paths led there. The future rested on whoever was victorious enough for the throne. The Xianyan Palace Set which was reconstructed for the purpose of the battle. The scene was film over four days and had an estimate of 700 crew members and 10,000 Soldier extras. Stuntmen that had trained at the same level of Jackie Chan were brought in to add even more depth to the battle. During filming, a translator would relay messages from the Director. It’s hard to enough to imagine how much coordination, trust, and patience that took. It’s even crazier that they had to time the filming during the rainy season and yet they still wrapped up on time. Watch that battle scene and just try to wrap your mind on how much effort that took.
During this scene, it was reported that Mr. Hara had visited the filming site and gifted actors his autograph boards as a surprise. That must have uplifted many of the crew.
The crew may be large and the sets huge and yet there was attention to the background such as the dragons molded on the back of the throne and the pillars. These were based off of designs of the treasure trove said to have been displayed at the actual Qin emperor’s residence. The Chouga Tribe palace has many different types of animals, as the Chouga Tribe greatly respected and worshiped nature. It was designed to look like a large rock that emits a calming presence.
The actors play their role in a pretty sincere manga style with stylistic poses and vocal cadences. It may be loosely based off history but not once does the movie let you forget that it’s story is rooted in manga. Through all of the numbers, beauty, and sword fights, it really just comes down to one guy determined to follow his dreams. Kingdom is a great movie to watch and comes highly recommended to catch on screen this coming August 16!
Stick around during the trailer to listen to Ok One Rock’s music: “Wasted Nights”, as you process the movie overall. OK One Rock is just the absolute best for uplifting and memorable rock music.