Over the past several years, I have been consistently unable to watch a mainstream action movie for more than a few minutes; all of them being too silly and too predictable for me. So, I thought that the fact that I managed to watch this one all the way to the end makes "Dragon Blade" at least worth a brief comment.
So, the first comment that I can make about this movie is that it takes about the same effort to make an ugly movie as to make a beautiful one. And this one surely took a lot of effort: battles, duels, mass scenes, ornate costumes, all that. The result is as ugly as a movie can be. Slow and unlikely duels, wooden dialogues, silly melodramatic scenes, gratuitous violence, costumes that look like they were borrowed from a cosplay exhibition. What else do you need in a movie to make a movie truly ugly? Yes, make it boring most of the time, and you have it: Dragon Blade.
But there was something in this movie that made it worth watching; a thread that surfaces only at the beginning, to remain hidden but occasionally flashing up during the rest of the movie. It is the different kind of story that characterizes Chinese and American movies. American action movies have the simplest theme you can imagine: good guy finds evil guy and defeats him. Chinese movies have a different theme: good guys organize to fight evil together. So, this movie is a juxtaposition of the American and the Chinese themes: at the beginning you have the Chinese theme of group solidarity that leads to peace and collaboration. It has good moments; naive, sure, but moving, such as when the young boy, Publius, sings something supposed to be the "Roman Hymn" in a sort of Latin. Then, the American theme takes over, the bad guy shows up and the rest of the movie goes trough the rear valve of the bull.
The Chinese movie industry hasn't expressed so far an author equivalent to the Japanese Hayao Miyazaki who has defined a whole century in terms of visual arts. But they might. And, if they do, it will be something to watch, indeed.