The sweep of history and the swoop of moviemaking meet in "The Warring States," an epic yet epically generic Chinese battle saga set during the titular era, a BC time of legendary infighting in the Zhou dynasty.
Director Shen Jian's movie concerns the ever-skirmishing Qi and Wei states, and a complicated relationship between real-life military strategists Sun Bin (Honglei Sun) and Pang Juan (Francis Ng).
Sun, played by Honglei with a mix of wise-man stoicism and comic-relief haplessness, avoids side-taking until he falls for a beautiful Qi warrior princess (Jing Tian), then gets forcibly co-opted by old buddy Pang, a Wei military leader who believes Sun holds untapped knowledge on winning wars. (The real Sun Bin did in fact, like Sun Tzu before him, write an "Art of War.")
Those unfamiliar with the era's political machinations might find "The Warring States" mildly confusing — and for subtitle readers, the English translations whiz by awfully quick — but there are nifty fight sequences, clever bits of wartime subterfuge, scenic outdoor photography and Honglei's quirky charm to keep up a patchwork of interest.
Otherwise, this busy attempt at merging large-scale CGI action filmmaking with outsized historical drama is unremarkable.
"The Warring States." No MPAA rating. Running time: 2 hours, 2 minutes. At AMC Atlantic Times Square 14, AMC Puente Hills 20, AMC Santa Anita 16 and AMC Tustin 14.