The Emperor's Shadow

by

comment

The emperor in question is China’s first, Ying Sheng (Jiang Wen), who conquered and united the country’s various provinces around 200 B.C. His shadow is Gao Jianli (Ge You), his boyhood friend and a musical prodigy who grows up to be a famous musician and a royal pain in the royal rear. Though there’s a gulf between the two – Sheng has become all-powerful while Jianli is a commoner whose people are among the conquered – the emperor wants to do right by his old pal, both out of respect for their youthful ties and to honor Jianli’s impressive talent. He makes him the court musician and gives him the job of composing the country’s first national anthem, but all Jianli wants is the emperor’s daughter Yueyang (Xu Qing). Which is not good.

As history this is about 70 percent bunk, 20 percent speculation and 10 percent factual, but it hardly matters since The Emperor’s Shadow is the kind of mammoth, enjoyable spectacle you hardly see anymore, with thousands of extras milling about meaningfully, vast vistas and opulent interiors and enough bloodshed to turn a river red – which actually happens at one point. At the center of it all is a charismatic performance by Wen as the down-to-earth emperor, given to looking bemused and saying things like "cut the crap." He’s a rather likable guy as bloodthirsty tyrants go, which makes the movie’s ironic coda all the more bittersweet.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at letters@metrotimes.com.

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.