An adaptation of Shakespeare’s famous play ‘Hamlet’, The Banquet is a Mandarin film set in 907 AD and involves an epic drama of feuds, betrayal, fight for power, love and emotions. The grandiose sets and costumes along with computerized flying martial arts stunts, formulated by Yuen Wo Ping from the ‘Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon’ fame, all make the movie a big budget venture.
The film ropes in renowned Chinese stars such as Ziyi Zhang, who plays the role of Empress Wan, the central character in the film, Daniel Wu as Prince Wu Luan and others. Empress Wan is in love with Prince Wu Luan, but she settles for his father and marries him, becoming the new empress. Distraught at losing his lady-love to his father, the prince leaves for a far away land where he involves himself with a performing troupe.
The Emperor suddenly dies in his bed in mysterious circumstances and it is no other than his own brother Li, who has plotted his murder. Having usurped the throne, Li also aims to make his brother’s beautiful wife his own and therefore forces Empress Wan to marry him. Afraid that his threats would cause more harm to the family, Empress Wan agrees to marry him.
Li realizes that to have full control over the throne, he must do away with the prince too and he sends assassins to kill Wu Luan, but after a long flying martial art battle, the Prince manages to save his life. He decides to come back to the palace and seek revenge for his father’s death as well as save his lady love and the subjects from the tyrant king. His all too sweet new love played by another great actress Zhou Xun, is charming throughout.
However, even with elaborate sets, costumes, amazing graphics, brilliant action scenes and the picturing of one of the Bard’s greatest classics, the film fails to make its mark. The flying stunts are carried out too far and seem most unnecessary in several scenes. The acting potential of the famous stars has not been used well and the story falls flat as a weak rendering of Hamlet.
In overall, The Banquet pays a good tribute to Chinese history and for those who like films with elaborate actions and strikingly beautiful sets and some great hot scenes, the movie will be a pleasure to watch.