Released in China just ahead of the 100th anniversary of the Xinhai Revolution. The 1911 Revolution, was one of the most anticipated films of 2011.
Zhang Li and Jackie Chan are the Director for this film. To guarantee box office success. The duo bet all their stakes on an impressive lineup of stars. The most illustrious being Jackie Chan himself. But compared to other Chinese patriotic films. 1911 ( Dai Thanh Phu Bai) does not really have the qualities that would attract wider audiences.
After watching the movie, I can say that it makes a strong visual impact. The effects and the soundtrack can be considered top notch. But the story is lacking some important elements, not because there is nothing going on. But because there seems to be too much going on. The whole movie covers four revolutions that happened around 1911. And which are seen as key events eventually leading to the founding of the Republic of China and the Kuomintang.
From the viewer’s perspective, however. It looks like the directors just put four separate stories together to make one action and drama-packed movie. Due to this “action overload,” there is no clearly distinguishable high point in the movie. The whole movie feels like a historical documentary rather than a commercial movie.
A hint of romance
Although the story is inspired by the actual events of the revolution, an element of romance has been injected to create additional intrigue. The main character, revolutionist Huang Xing’s (Jackie Chan) love interest in the film is Li Zhonghan (played by Li Bingbing). Another relationship depicted in the movie is that of Ling Jueming (Hu Ge) and his wife. The film ends on a very impressive note with the testament of Ling, who ends up dying in the revolution, being delivered to and read by his wife.
Director Zhang Li is best know for his historical TV drama. Which paints a straightforward and realistic picture of life in early 20th century China.
In 1911, Zhang portrays some historically important figures, including Yuan Shikai, general of the Qing army and the first president of the Republic of China, in a quite different light. Yuan, a greedy but smart man with an affinity for ancient Chinese philosophy as well as for wealth and power, is one of the most impressive characters in the movie.
All in all, the Yuan depicted in the film is very different from the “pure evil thief who stole the fruit of the revolution,” which is the way he is described in many earlier Chinese dramatic works and books. Winston Chao is convincing in his role as Yuan Shikai, having played the charismatic leader in four other motion pictures.
Another impressive character is general Li Yuanhong who was forced by the revolutionists to lead them in the Wuchang Uprising against Qing government officials. Actor Jiang Wu gives an excellent performance in the small role. Especially in the scene where Li is agonizing over his conflicting loyalties to the revolutionists and the government.
Upstaging a world star
Compared to the excellent performances given by many of the experienced actors appearing in the film. Jackie Chan fails to impress. He plays the role of Huang Xing. The main revolutionist who is spearheading the anti-imperialist movement in China while Sun Yat-sen’s character focuses on raising money for the movement abroad. Chan’s performance leaves the viewer feeling that age is catching up with the film legend.
In his most recent movies. Chan has favored roles that help him consolidate his status as a serious actor rather than an action hero. In 1911 (phim hanh dong 2020), he takes part in only one fight scene, taking on assassins trying to kill Sun Yat-sen. Unfortunately, the scene feels very forced and does not fit in with the style and the mood of the whole movie.
The film, as Xinhai Revolution is a glossy, big-budget epic. But even with Jackie Chan in it, it has done poorly at the box office in China. I do not find that surprising.
After The Founding of a Republic and The Founding of a Party. So Chinese moviegoers seem to be getting tired of these kinds of indoctrinating movies released under the guise of mainstream popular entertainment.
Rating: R (for war violence)
Directed By: Jackie Chan, Li Zhang
Written By: Chen Baoguang, Wang Xingdong
In Theaters: Oct 7, 2011 Limited
On Disc/Streaming: Jan 10, 2012
Box Office: $127,437
Runtime: 125 minutes
Studio: Variance Films