Over-thinking Confucius

Source:Global Times Published: 2010-1-28 4:11:02

Better than Avatar?: "Run away! Confucius is coming!" Photo: IC

By Zhao Kun

The 2D version of Avatar was recently pushed to the wayside to make room for the biopic of the eponymous philosopher, Confucius.

The movie begins with Confucius (Chow Yun-Fat) as a middle-aged man working at post in the Kingdom of Lu's government. Always the noble thinker, we see Confucius advocating the idea that a nation should be ruled according to a set of courteous morals.

But by the age of 55, an opposing clan foils Confucius' political ambitions and the frustrated thinker leaves to travel China for 14 years. Fortunately, he is followed by dozens of loyal disciples.

Hu Mei, director of Confucius, made a name for herself with historical TV dramas, but here decided to take a decidedly risky path when she decided to tell the story as a biography.

First of all, there's no way that historical records from the era offer enough drama to base a story around. But more importantly, the greatness of the ancient sage is mostly found in the ideas he advocated, not the events of his life. So right from the start, any drama the movie hoped to convey was stillborn.


It became obvious as the movie went along that the director was trying to do all she could do to make up for this problem, but in the end, nothing really solved the absence of any real drama.

One trick she tried was to resort to drastic dramatizations that took a historical fact and went buck wild. At one point, there was even a subplot involving the Queen of the Wei Kingdom attempting to seduce Confucius, though this was likely just a ploy to add a female character to the story's gender disparity.

Instead of being accessible and engaging, Confucius goes against the general impression most have of the famed philosopher and otherwise ruins his otherwise solemn stature to the point of rendering Chow Yun-Fat's Confucius inauthentic.

And while part of an attempt to sell more tickets, the movie's grandiose battle scenes are just tiresome. Moviegoers have had to sit through the action-packed disappointments Red Cliff  and Mulan, and most have had just about enough of lengthy depictions of ancient wars. Plus while the visual effects seen in 2012 and Avatar are wowing people all over China, Confucius feels embarrassingly shabby.

Also, the movie's production team apparently took for granted that simply giving their version of Confucius lines that the real Confucius said wouldn't automatically make their movie great.

This epic is best treated as a kind of sleeping pill that will keep you drowsy from beginning until Wang Fei's song playing over the closing credits.

On a scale of 1 to 10, Confucius gets a thoughtless and mind-numbing 4.

Zhao Kun is a writer for China Drive on CRI EZFM (FM91.5 in Beijing). He can be reached at zhaokun123@gmail. com. China Drive is a radio magazine show on the air every day from 5 to 7 pm.      

Posted in: China

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