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The similarities between Red Cliff and Troy

May 17th, 2010
Red Cliff

I watched the film “Red Cliff” in one sitting. I’m more of an expert in Japanese history having studied it at UVIC, but I’ve been learning more about China due to my MBA and living there. Red Cliff is a famous battle full of famous heroes, it is partly history and partly mythology after the passage of almost 2000 years. Experts can’t even agree on the exact battle site, something I’m familiar with from my recent study of Pictish history.

Cao Cao is one of the great generals in Civilization IV, but the star of the film is Tony Leung as Zhou You. He and Cao Cao are considered more villains in classical Chinese literature particularly the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the movie is part historical drama, part romance, there is wire work and a few heroes defeat hundreds of mooks. A western comparison would be the Fall of Troy both the movie staring Brad Pitt and the book by Homer.

Seeing the movie and subsequent Googling reminded me that I always wanted to play the classic Koei games on my old 286, but the closest I think I came was playing one on Eric Chang’s NES. One game was released on the Wii but only in Japan.

Zhenge Liang is supposedly made into the hero in the fictionalized novel, but I’ve never read it, I thought about buying it while in China, but instead read Mo Yan. Zhenge Liang is something of a rival of Tony Leung‘s character, but is more of a strategist, making him Odysseus to Leung’s Achilles or perhaps Hector.

I always thought Hector was the true badass of the book. I mean he wasn’t immune to damage like Achilles and he did great feats in defense of his homeland. The war wasn’t his doing, but his brother’s, many times he is the voice of reason and practicality, resolute he goes to his death in mortal combat with the undefeatable Achilles. Upon his death in Troy, Achilles says to Priam of him, he’s the best I ever fought.

In the movie my favourite character was Ajax, that was great acting, though Nathan Jones as Boagrius was pretty awesome. Troy is probably more familiar to Western audiences, but Red Cliff despite no Brad Pitt or Orlando Bloom probably has the bigger fight scenes, Cao Cao’s army numbered in the 100,000 whereas contemporary battles in the West, 10-20,000 was a big force. In China John Woo could definitely afford the extras, also I think four special effects studios worked on Red Cliff.

As in Troy, Tony Leung gets the girl, which would make him Paris perhaps with Cao Cao being the spurned older man Menelaus. There are a lot of similarities between the legends and movies, just as Joseph Campbell would predict, though I don’t know if he ever compared these two legendary tales of East and West, sad that more people probably have seen the movies than read the books. I had to read the Illiad in high school, for which I am thankful.

I just ended up reading an epic Wikipedia entry for Sabertooth who was played by the same actor as Ajax in the first X-men. I couldn’t believe they eventually had him lose to an ‘enhanced’ Caliban. Comic continuity has gone crazy, but I remember Caliban appearing in the sewers and kidnapping Kitty Pride, he was a nobody, not someone who would defeat Sabertooth back in the 80s. Of course I just learned Sabertooth started out as an Iron Fist villain, I used to read that book back in the day, one day I hope to read some more graphic novels, supposedly old comics are being digitized so I could just read them online for a fee, but that can get expensive too.

It’s amazing the depth put into some Wikipedia entries, especially for non-historically important topics, some topics like Star Wars have their own Wikipedia err Wookieepedia. I try to stick with the true canonical stuff, but with X-men it is beyond nonsensical and I have no idea about Star Wars cannon either, Star Trek I think is only the movies and tv shows, not the books and comics and games etc. etc.

Enough or too much

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