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It’s fair to say that Hero and House of Flying Daggers both favored spectacle over storytelling. But the spectacle was pretty great, and the storytelling was a lot more involving than it is in The Promise, Chen Kaige’s grandiosely vapid entry into the ancient-myth-goes-CGI genre. Chen and Hero and House director Zhang Yimou are fellow members of the Fifth Generation of Chinese filmmakers, who debuted in the mid-’80s with visually sumptuous and morally serious period films. Though both directors have been accused of playing to foreign audiences—not unreasonably, given censorship at home—Zhang’s movies have retained their rigor while Chen’s have become increasingly flabby. Chen’s previous film, Together, was a sappy tale of a violin prodigy that at least contained echoes of his earlier, better work. The Promise is a pointless pan-Asian fable in which the costumes surpass the script, the acting, and the special effects. Set in an imaginary primeval realm, the movie follows superspeedy slave Kunlun (Korean actor Jang Dong-gun), who falls in love with Princess Qingcheng (Hong Kong’s Cecilia Cheung) as he’s rescuing her from a murderous king. Kunlun was wearing the distinctive crimson armor of his wounded master, Gen. Guangming (Japan’s Hiroyuki Sanada), when he saved the princess, but he says nothing when Guangming takes credit for liberating Qingcheng. Guangming settles in with her for what passes in a Chinese movie for an erotic idyll, until the honeymoon is interrupted by evil Duke Wuhuan (HK’s Nicholas Tse) and his own superspeedy vassal Snow Wolf (China’s Ye Liu). Soon enough, the abjectly loyal Kunlun is back in the rescuing business. The Promise was trimmed of 18 minutes by U.S. distributor the Weinstein Co., which then dropped it, but it’s unlikely that the movie’s coherence vanished with that footage. The problem is not that the story doesn’t make sense but that it doesn’t matter: None of the characters is particularly engaging, and their plights are too goofy to have any real-world resonance. The FX may be lame, but they’re more persuasive than the film’s emotions. —Mark Jenkins