Anyone expecting Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale to be similar to Braveheart, The Last of the Mohicans, or Apocalypto will be disappointed. The movie poster and trailer may look similar to those films, but Seediq Bale is pretty much a flat action movie showcasing the art of decapitations. Regardless of the film being historic or not, when a movie has only douchebag characters, any emotional connection the viewer has for the characters will be lacking. I did not see the four-and-a-half-hour cut which supposedly has more depth and characterization, but this short version of the film is certainly not the way to watch this film unless you think you will be entertained by watching an action movie with people killing each other in a forest for 150 minutes straight.
This 25-million dollar Taiwanese film tells the story of the “honorable” Seediq, the aboriginal people of Taiwan. In 1895, when Japan took over the Taiwanese area from China, the Japanese tried to assimilate the Seediq into Japanese culture with force, cruelty, or violence. The movie starts off in 1905 with Mouna Rudo, a young Seediq man who wants to not only fight other aboriginal clans but also fight the Japanese occupiers. Since all the aboriginal clansmen can barely share the land with each other, you can imagine the hate they have for the Japanese who want to chop down all the trees in the forest and take over everything. Mouna almost starts a rebellion against the Japanese but backs off once he realizes that if he kills one Japanese policeman, then the police would kill tons of Seediq people, including women and children. Fast forward 25 years later, Mouna is now the bitter leader of the Seediq clan and tries to keep things calm among the other clans and the Japanese in order to avoid conflict. Since the clansmen and Japanese policemen are all depicted like angry time bombs about to explode, it’s no wonder that another rebellion starts. Mouna takes up arms again and gets most of the other clans to join in on the fight. From there on, you have a long-winded violent battle with decapitations, rock slides, spear and grenade chucking, airplane gas bombing, and suicides until the end of the movie.
Seediq Bale is the first epic type of movie I’ve ever seen where the majority of the characters are assholes. As realistic as it may be to have a story with only loathsome characters in which the protagonists are just as unlikable as the antagonists, it’s hard to connect with anyone. The violence in the film is pointless because you don’t care who lives or dies. With so many unlikable and undeveloped characters in this film, I wasn’t pulled in to the story. The Japanese were depicted like Looney Toons cartoon villains. There was only one Japanese policeman who seemed like a regular human being but I get the feeling that most of his scenes were cut out for this version. The aboriginal men were depicted as angry, cocky assholes who valued death more than life. Honor to the Seediq seems to mean getting face tattoos once you chop the enemy’s head off and it’s better to have your whole culture die off due to pride and respect in the afterlife rather than live on no matter what the situation. In the beginning of the movie, we are led to believe that Mouna actually wants to preserve his culture, but by the end of the movie, he could care less that all of his people (including mothers and babies) would all be slaughtered as long as everyone gets respect in the ghost world. This mentality isn’t the “one should die for your country” belief that’s widely accepted in the world. This is a “everyone – including moms, grandmas, babies – should die for your country” belief which makes no sense at all. The biggest what-the-f moments in the film (and most memorable scenes) are when we see the majority of the aboriginal moms kill themselves and their babies. Is the audience supposed to look up to the Seediq culture? I don’t know. All I know is that whenever I watch other movies about aboriginal people or American Indians, I am left with a positive vibe about their culture and traditions.
The 1080p 2.35:1 video transfer beautifully captures the film’s lush visuals. The eye-popping colors really flatter the Seediq forest and costumes. Skintones, black levels and shadow detail all look pretty flawless. Detail is amazing, especially in the many forest scenes. During some of the speedy camera-movement action scenes, the image seems to slightly move and flutter. As negative as that may sound, I was more distracted by the director’s creative style rather by than any faults with the Blu-ray video quality: Seediq Bale had many different camera speeds (slo-mo action scenes to Benny-Hill-style sped-up action scenes) and film styles (some action scenes looked like video while most looked like film). But don’t worry, the Seediq people are well-represented on this Blu-ray video transfer!
I was quite impressed with the Chinese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. Machine guns, spears, bows & arrows, grenades, bombs, swords, falling boulders, explosions – I don’t think I’ve heard such an exciting mish-mash of forest action since the Ewoks fighting the baddies in Return of the Jedi. The audio is so active, you’ll have to give your receiver, speakers and subwoofer a rest after the film is over. Dialogue and angry shouting all sound crisp and clear but this track really shines when we hear the action, musical score and head choppings.
Chinese DD 2.0 and English subtitles are also included.
There is nothing that special that comes with these extras. The most interesting part of the Behind the Scenes is when the filmmakers show how they do the decapitation special effects. The special effects team did an amazing job casting the actors heads to make the fake ones. Anyone who dreams of making a film with decapitations should check out this film and learn from the Seediq Bale creative team! The director also discusses how Seediq Bale had been in the pre-production stage for many years. The filmmakers spent a lot of time researching the Seediq culture, but, ooops, they forgot to hire a decent screenwriter!
– Behind the Scenes (22:41)
– Make-Up and Visual Effects (2:02)
– Film Trailers
The direction by Te-Sheng Wei is pretty with some great sweeping shots of the Avatar-like island, I wasn’t distracted by any of the film’s sloppy CGI moments, and the film is certainly not guilty of being boring, but this short version of Seediq Bale is not the way to watch this film if the longer version is known to have more depth. If there was good screenwriting for this film, I hope it showed up in the long version. It would be nice if Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale follows the same pattern as Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven, where the shorter theatrical version was awful and the longer director’s cut was amazing.
Well Go USA delivers another Blu-ray with outstanding video and audio quality. I just wish I could say the same positive things about the film. If you are in the mood for action with no character development, then give this film a rent. If you want a little more substance with your decapitations, then I think you may have to check out the longer version!