Many martial arts fans have seen Zhang Yimou's masterful epic Hero on import DVDs over the past two years. But that didn't stop moviegoers from giving the film an enthusiastic reception this week as it opened on big screens in America at last. Miramax put the film in more than 2000 theaters and inherited the box office crown, earning more than $18 million for their gamble, almost twice what experts had predicted. That's an incredible feat for a subtitled film.

But Hero's most remarkable achievement may be the way it is scoring with both audiences and with critics, including those from the religious press. Last week, Film Forum featured two reviews, both giving the film top marks. This week, the raves continue.

Carole McDonnell (The Film Forum) raves, "Hero is a martial arts film for those who hate martial arts films. It's a pretty art film for those who hate pretty art films. And if you have not seen it, please see it now." She adds, "In Hero, we have the uniting of a kingdom through love and self-sacrifice. Destiny, devotion, agony, and fellowship are all beautifully depicted. And shouldn't an audience be treated to the beautiful … especially when the true ugly horrors of war are depicted so realistic every day in the media?"

J. Alan Speer (The Phantom Tollbooth) raves, "Hero's ocular delights cannot be overstated. Every page of my notes is littered with 'wow' from top to bottom."

Speer also provides an in-depth look at the genre, and then examines Hero's place it. "It is an unrivaled spectacle that effectively spoils us for anything future iterations the genre may offer," he says. "Hero stands at the apex of the art, as every individual shot could probably be framed and mounted. We've finally got a Kung Fu film that ...

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