sword of swords cover

The Sword of Swords (1968) Review: The Awakening of A Reluctant Hero

The world of martial arts is nothing more than a world of politics. The one who has the most power has the most control over his fortune and the most freedom to live as he pleases (i.e., a king’s lifestyle). Doesn’t it sound enticing? But with great power comes great responsibility. Those who seek power for personal gain are not fit to rule. In this tale, a meek hero is hesitant to get involved in the world of martial arts until his family and his country are on the line.

To give you folks a backstory of this legendary sword, I quote the introduction from the film for you to better understand the story:

During the Sung Dynasty, about 1000 B.C., a famed sword smith Meng Yao Chi took ten years to forge a sword from the best metal available. When China was invaded by the neighboring Liao state, Meng presented his sword to General Meng Liang. With it, the General won battle after battle and the sword became a legend. After General Meng’s Death, the sword was lost until rediscovered in the Ming Dynasty. The prince of a nearby barbarian tribe coveted the sword and dispatched a trusted warrior to acquire it. This is the story of this mission.

Based on the quote, the sword sounds pretty epic, doesn’t it? I don’t think I would want the sword even if I was fit to rule the martial arts world. It’s too much stress and responsibility. So, I can sympathize with the hero in this film who learned martial arts to hunt and nothing more. However, our destiny is not always decided by us. The hero, not only has the mental capacity but also the physical strength to be the keeper of the legendary sword. After all, those who yield the sword have the power to control the land for good or evil. It sounds kind of like Lord of the Rings, the Chinese version the more I think about it, but not as dark.

What surprised me about this story is how passive and meek the main character is. I have never seen a highly skilled martial artist who is unreasonably meek. His saint-like personality is his downfall. It is his reluctance to kill the main villain when he had the chance that caused him a spiral of tragic events. As the audience, I can’t help but be a little annoyed by his passiveness, but then again, there wouldn’t be a story if he weren’t a reluctant hero. He eventually learned from his mistake and become emotionally stronger towards the end, but at the expense of losing his parents, sister, and his two eyes! It made me wonder whether the film was trying to tell ordinary men to step up and be more assertive. I think there are a lot of men out there like him–fully capable and strong to make a difference but choose not to meddle with politics until he is backed into a corner. On a positive note, what I like about this film is that the hero’s weakness becomes his strength. The hero always finds a way to win in the end magically, which makes me feel happy. After all, I am always rooting for the good guy to win.

For my final thoughts, this film is decent but not great. I like The One-Armed Swordsman (1967) more which was played by the same main actor, Jimmy Wang Yu. One plus thing about this film is the cinematography and sword fighting. It’s beautifully well done. So if you are a fan of martial arts films, it’s still worth watching.

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