Long before "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within", and beating "The Matrix" to the post, the Hong Kong film "The Storm Riders" was thrilling audiences in the east with its blend of CGI and martial arts.
Based on the popular comic series, the one difficulty with this film is that it tries to straddle a story that has literally taken three years to unfold in the book form. This results in unnecessary characters popping up to confuse an already busy movie.
Perhaps the easy way to explain the plot of the film is to literally translate its Cantonese title, which is: "Wind Cloud Conquer the World". Wind (Cheng) and Cloud (Kwok) are two young boys endowed with incredible (hidden) powers. The ruthless Lord Conquer (Chiba) has learnt in a prediction that his fate will be affected by them, so kills their parents and raises Wind and Cloud with his own children, Charity (Yang) and Frost (Tse).
As you can imagine from their names, their superhuman powers manifest themselves as mighty forces of nature. As Cloud and Wind grow, their domination of China is assured, but it's the discovery of their real past that leads to a showdown of spectacular consequences.
The result is a near relentless assault of CGI-enhanced fights that, for the most part, work very well. You do get the feeling that it's like a director with a new toy and the CGI could be used with a little more restraint, but the ambition and scale of the movie is quite incredible. The Hong Kong film industry is growing up fast, and is posing the only real threat to the US dominance in the blockbuster market.
"The Storm Riders" is now availabe to buy on DVD.