Enjoyable though it manages to miss the mark.

Kingdom of Conquerors is a film about a little-known part of history—at least here in the West.  It seems that late in his reign, Genghis Khan called for the famous Daoist philosopher Qiu Chuji to meet with him.  The problem was that Qui Chuji lived in Eastern China and Khan was far away in the western portion of Asia—and the journey took two years.  Considering that Qui Chuji was quite old, it is a pretty amazing journey.  The trek and his meetings with the great conqueror have been recorded in Chinese texts—though I could find no summaries or translations online and I’m a bit old to start learning Chinese.  However, I have a difficult time believing that the story in the film is anything more than a highly fictionalized account—mostly because some subplots exist in the film (such as a plot to murder Khan) which don’t seem necessary and the actual meeting between these two great men is a bit of an afterthought.

Kingdom of Conquerors
Directed by
Ping Wang
Cast
Le Geng, Xiao Ran Li, Men Tu
Release Date
2014
Martin’s Grade: B-

The film begins one of Khan’s generals arriving in the East to find Qui Chuji.  However, once he finds the man, Qui Chuji seems rather ambivalent about making the journey.  Then, once he agrees, the old man seems to do his best to make the trip slow by challenging the General’s actions.  And, Qui Chuji isn’t willing to budge—either the General complies with his requests or he’ll stop his journey.  This isn’t done because the man is annoying for the sake of being annoying—he’s a very highly principled man and must live by his Daoist roots-and insists the General does the same.  Along the way, there are some portions that didn’t set well with me—such as an over-emphasis on martial arts fighting that seemed out of place.  There also is a subplot involving a woman who wants to travel along with the entourage to find her husband.  Again, the film didn’t seem to need it and it felt like it was added more to make the film cinematic and action-packed than anything else.  Eventually, the caravan ends up meeting with Khan and the two men actually seem to spend very little time together.  And, oddly, there is an epilogue that indicates that although Khan admired the Daoist philosopher, soon afterwards Khan abandoned these pacifist teachings and went back to his conquests!  So much for this big meeting.

If it sounds like I am underwhelmed by this Chinese film, I am—and my feelings are generally mixed.  I love the idea of this film, I adored the wonderful cinematography and quality of the film (especially the snow scenes) and the music was lovely.  On the other hand, the script seemed a bit lacking and I thought some of the slow-motion portions were overused.  I also am one of these annoying purists who prefers seeing a film with subtitles instead of dubbing—and this one was dubbed.  Now it wasn’t a bad dubbing, I will admit, but I prefer seeing and hearing the actual original film.  If you have a choice, you may wish to see the subtitled version.  All in all, it’s a mildly interesting movie and not much more.

Review by Lead Entertainment Writer & Film Critic, Martin Hafer