I had considered commenting on the movie The Four for my very first article. However, it had only recently been released and many people were acquainted with it. Thus I chose to leave The Four for a later date. That date is now. It is also very, very soon. Otherwise, my next three articles will be pushed into next month and I intend to spend that month crash coursing in Mandarin for my June trip… and my return to the academic world.
I vow to serve many, many photographs in order to atone for the lack of articles that are bound to accompany this period of frantic studying, packing and sewing.
The Four is one of my favourite movies which, in itself, is rather an odd sentiment. I am a purist, a traditionalist, and I do tend to abide by the original work with a rather obsessive level of reverence. Therefore, I must say that if you are searching for an adaptation, you have come to the wrong place. As it said at the end of The Four 2, this is an “adaptation based on Woon See Oan’s novel ‘The Four'”.
‘Based on‘ are the key words here – I assure you that I am fully aware of which movie I am currently reviewing – and for a based on it is extremely good. In fact, The Four is too amazing for me to accurately and justly describe my feelings for it. To those who have just discovered this blog I do assure you, I am an authoress. Description is my specialty. One of the reasons that I love The Four is that it doesn’t hide away or pretend to be an actual adaptation (a loyal one), unlike some series.
A Brief Synopsis-
A proliferation of counterfeit money has been spreading throughout the city due to a stolen coin cast. There is a government department known as Department Six who have been tasked with solving all criminal investigations. Department Six is a constabulary with four ‘great’ detectives – a ranking which Commandant Liu dangles tantalising to members of his constabulary based on success rates. One of Commandant Liu’s best men, Cold Blood, is placed in charge of an operation to seize a suspect who allegedly has a coin cast. However, their task is intercepted by the Divine Constabulary.
The Divine Constabulary are a secret organisation who work under orders from the emperor. Jealous and outraged, Commandant Liu publicly expels Cold Blood from Department Six. The leader of the Divine Constabulary, Zhuge Zhen Wo, seeks out Cold Blood, inviting him into the fold of the Divine Constabulary. Doing so, he is unaware that Cold Blood has actually been sent to infiltrate the Divine Constabulary.
Firstly, we have Heartless (Wú Qíng). She is a young woman (the author gave his permission for the film to change Heartless’ sex) who has a very dark and tragic past. Her family were brutally attacked when she was a girl and of the attack, she was the only survivor. However, her legs were damaged beyond repair and she is now bound to a wheelchair though she does make use of crutches at certain points. She is close to Tiě Shǒu and devoutly loyal to Zhūgé Zhèng Wǒ (the leader of the Divine Constabulary).
Portrayed by 劉亦菲 (Liú Yì Fēi).
Iron Fist (Tiě Shǒu) is a highly skilled craftsman. He was the one who made Heartless’ wheelchair. He, alongside Heartless, were members of the Divine Constabulary from the very beginning of the movie. He is loyal to Zhūgé Zhèng Wǒ and a much respected member. He is often seen with Heartless and is protective of her. He can even be described as having spoiled her.
Portrayed by 鄒兆龍. Also known as Collin Chou.
Life Snatcher (Zhuī Mìng) is first seen aiding the Divine Constabulary as a potential buyer of the stolen coin cast. Prior to his joining the Divine Constabulary he was a renowned debt collector who had never failed in his task. After aiding the Divine Constabulary he was asked to join by Zhūgé Zhèng Wǒ. He initially declined, but swiftly changed his mind after they started celebrated their success by drinking some high quality alcohol.
Portrayed by 鄭中基. Also known as Ronald Cheng.
Cold Blood (Lěng Xuè)
Initially a member of Department Six, he was a expelled from the constabulary after the Divine Constabulary acted on a coin cast lead and made the arrest. He is a highly skilled detective and martial artist. However, he is also said to be ‘cursed’. Nevertheless, he is quickly recruited by Zhūgé Zhèng Wǒ.
Portrayed by 鄧超 (Dèng Chāo)
The Four is a mix of fantasy, soft crime and action. It has been heavily criticized for ‘copying’ the X Men. I admit, I see a very keen resemblance, but is that a bad thing? There are character roles that are reminiscent of the X Men. However this movie focuses on the solving the committed crime and its fantasy aspects. We have a team that is arguably a little on the ‘misfit’ side of things, but are powerful and a lead character in a wheelchair with psychic skill. Even to say that, Heartless isn’t the leader. Zhūgé Zhèng Wǒ is. Though, perhaps there might be a connection between Cold Blood and a certain intellect that I don’t care to go in to.
That is as far as the resemblance goes in my eyes. If I were to say, however, that the criticism hasn’t anything to do with their fighting abilities then I would be lying. The complaints that I have seen and read make comparison to X Men and are from Westerners. Knowing how niche foreign films are to the masses, I have to say that they’ve made a bit of a blunder.
To the outsider, the various uses of qì might look like some sort of supernatural force or even perhaps like Cyclops optic blast (though not from eyes). It’s a tried and tested and common-place use and deployment of powers. It’s used in fantasy, myth, martial arts and wǔxiá. Wǔxiá is a niche genre, and the deployment of such abilities are usually used in conjunction or connection to it. I highly doubt that many of the people who complained about the ‘copying’ were aware of that, but expecting others to know what I do just because I do is inane.
Does Heartless and the use of qì make The Four a rip off? I don’t think so. At its heart, The Four is a fantasy movie that is built around a detective story and while the Divine Constabulary are charged with saving China’s economy the stakes have always been higher in the X Men. It seems mostly unfair and uninformed, but I’m not complaining about it. Foreign media exports aren’t ‘mainstream’. To me, that’s where The Four comes in. There’s enough hullabaloo about the whole thing to put it out there.
The Four is a great movie. It pulls you in, keeps you wondering and because it’s fantasy you can’t discount anything. Really, there can be evil shape shifters, plant people, zombies, werewolves. It’s awesome. I wouldn’t complain about my parents incessant crime series watching if I thought there was a necromancer or a werewolf behind it. On top of the absolute wonder as to what could have committed the crime which unwinds and tangles and catches you up in it there are the fight scenes.
It’s a damnable sin to have gotten this far and not screamed about it. I love the fight scenes. I love the chase scene. I love the little bird and it’s sweet, sad moment of near glory. There is a woman, Jī Yáo Huā, who is considered to be in a ‘love triangle’ with Heartless and Cold Blood. As you can guess, Yáo Huā and Heartless don’t get along. This culminates in an awesome show-down of sorts at the end. I say ‘of sorts’, but that doesn’t lessen or demean the awesomeness of it. Just don’t expect any conclusive result at the end of it. The Four is a trilogy, after all.
Speaking of the ‘love triangle’, there isn’t a love story in The Four. What we have in this movie is more of a ‘crush’ triangle. If you’re expecting a soppy love story you should probably look for The Fox Lover: Warning – that movie is very long. The Four 2 isn’t a love story either – but that is off-topic.
In essence, The Four is a fantastic movie. The action scenes are stunning. The range of powers and abilities are fascinating to look at. I love the characters and characterisations. While the movie isn’t particularly ‘bright’, I feel that it portrays the movie’s sentiments and tone wonderfully. I mean, after all, the entire economy has been put into peril (other things too!) – that’s not exactly what I’d call light-hearted!
Having seen the second movie, I do have to say that, overall, I prefer The Four 2. The Four is great – as I’ve said above, but there’s something missing. It’s a certain spark. I don’t think that it detracts from enjoying The Four at all, but that’s just me. It might be that The Four is an on-going trilogy. Much like The Lord of the Rings you can’t just jump in mid-way if you don’t have any prior knowledge of it. As I said in the beginning, this doesn’t strike me as a particularly loyal adaptation. One leads to Two which leads to Three.
If The Four has failed then it’s in building too much suspense. Suspense is great. Having questions that gnaw at you until the next movie comes out can be great (though annoying). However, when the amount of answers that you have don’t match up to the number of questions you start to face then you start to face a problem. Sometimes I don’t mind this, but the answers weren’t quite enough to ‘sate’ me so the questions became a bit of an annoyance. I love asking ‘what is behind this‘. I don’t like asking ‘why is this‘ quite so much.
The Four 2 is out. So it’s not as much of a hindrance now.
All in all, I would give The Four a very happy ☆☆☆☆☆☆☆.
It’s great entertainment, has wonderful action scenes and it’s astoundingly easy to like and feel for its characters. The world building has been done really well and the events unfold nicely one after the other. There are a few too many questions at the end, but it hasn’t hampered my enjoyment.