There's no bad guy in Hero making it difficult to discern the need for heroism. Without a good vs. evil driven plot the movie drifts from one cinematic spectacle to another.
Hero is the story of Nameless, a martial arts phenom who can fly; swat away arrows a thousand at a time; and, stab his adversaries with such accuracy that he misses their vital organs. He, along with three other super assassins, apparently have the ability to single handedly defeat entire armies.
Nameless has gained an audience with the King because he's reportedly killed the three super assassins who were out to kill the ruler. The balance of the movie fleshes out the actual chain of events and motives leading up to Nameless' time alone in the King's throne room.
This type of movie exaggeration surpasses the existential excess of its predecessor, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. In that way its more like Superman than Enter The Dragon.
I feel somewhat awkward criticizing Hero because I'm sure it must address fundamental cultural truths important to Chinese society. However, from a Western literature point of view its simply missing any element of conflict that might make it interesting. Nameless doesn't actually struggle at any point during the film. There's no evil to overcome. The love story is even a pointless distraction.
On the other hand, Hero is a pretty movie and would be a wonderful sound and image film if set to a Philip Glass soundtrack.
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Copyright 2002, 2003, 2004 Dan Dodson