The first real martial arts movie I remember being introduced to was Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), one of the very best the genre has ever offered. Afterward, we got other great movies like Hero, which, although not as good as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, it still is a wonder to behold.
I have no idea if the martial arts are all choreographed in this film or not, but the movie is so gorgeous to behold that the story seems almost superfluos (its alternate time lines are the only thing negative about the film). Hero tells the story of a warrior (Jet Li) who is known as Nameless. He is brought to the Qin Emperor (Daoming Chen) after his completed assassinations. The movie is basically how those came to be. The movie also stars such actors as Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Maggie Cheung, Ziyi Zhang (also in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), and Donnie Yen (who is now known for 2016’s Rogue One).
I am not sure if Hero is the first movie one should see if they are hesitant about seeing their first martial arts film, but it is more than enough to quench the thirst of any hardcore fan of the genre. How else to explain a scene where (for about seven seconds) we see a sword fight where the two combatants seem to almost be playing ping-pong with water drops?
Parents, the PG-13 rating is due mainly to the violence (though none of it is gory or bloody). There is also one scene of sexuality to skip (though no actually nudity is show below the neck). Basically, the rating is justified.
The best thing that can be said about Hero (as well as all martial arts films) is that it shows the art of fighting (of being martial) is not just about the scenes, editing, or special effects. It is so much more deeper: the poetry, emotions, life, and serenity of it all. It is truly a delicate art.
The way movies should be treated, when you think about it.
Overall: Four Stars ****