The first 通天神探狄仁杰 (Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phamtom Flame) was a Tsui Hark production, starring a stellar cast of 刘德华 (Andy Lau), 李冰冰 (Li Bingbing), 刘嘉玲 (Carina Lau), 梁家辉, 邓超 etc. I actually caught the movie because of 刘嘉玲 and 李冰冰.
Frankly, I am not particularly fond of the former but I thought she was apt to play the role of the Empress 武则天 (Wu Zetian), the first and only female ruler in ancient China, in her hey days during the Tang Dynasty when she ascend the throne. This was a powerful, steely empress who single-handedly climbed her way up the imperial ladder from the day she entered the palace as a young 16 year old, overcoming the numerous obstacles and devious conspiracies plotted against her and others with her wit and schemes. At the end of it, she emerged the only and final winner of it all and escaped unscathed although she lost her key allies.
The latter is a mainland chinese beauty that I like, and when she dressed up as a male, reminded me of the famous 林青霞 (Lin Ching Hsia) who played the gender-bending role of 东方不败 very well.
Needless to say, the scale, settings and imagery were elaborate and everything was rather grand. There were also criticisms by critics on Carina's acting, the fictional depiction of events, the unrealistic storyline etc. Overall, I was not disappointed by the movie.
The second movie that I watched was 剑雨 (Reign of Assasins) by the famous John Woo. It had one of my favourite martial arts actress 杨紫琼 (Michelle Yeoh) as the leading lady. Much to my delight, the korean actor 郑雨盛, who acted with the very beautiful and talented 孙艺珍 in the sad movie 'A Moment to Remember' which I watched on VCD, was on board to give some comic relief as the male lead. Then of course, there were other chinese and taiwanese actors and actresses 王学圻,徐熙媛 (Barbie Hsu), 余文乐 (Shawn Yue), 林熙蕾, 郭晓冬, 江一燕, 戴立忍, 李宗翰 etc.
In comparison to the earlier movie, this one is probably of a smaller budget and grandeur. But what it lacks, it makes up for in sentimentality. There were lots of created moments between the two leads although the chemistry seemed to be missing. The phrases "我愿化成一座做石桥，经受五百年的风吹，五百年的日晒，五百年的雨打，只求她从桥上走过!" were repeated many times over to probably evoke deeper feelings and tears, if any, from the audience. Barbie Hsu was a complete slut in this movie and wants to sleep with any man in high power. She went all out to do anything to seduce any man to get what she wants. Fortunately, she was the source of her own doom.
The ending was kind of expected though and the leads lived happily ever after, I think. But of course, this movie also had its fair share of criticisms, ranging from using the older Michelle as the lead to the lack of chemistry between the two leads etc. In the end, I enjoyed this movie.
But between the 2 movies, it is really not hard to know which one I really prefer.