Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon

Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon is a 2008 Hong Kong action war drama film loosely based on parts of the 14th-century Chinese classical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms. It was directed by Daniel Lee with a reported budget of US$25 million. The film is a joint production between Hong Kong, the People's Republic of China and South Korea.[4][5]

Three Kingdoms:
Resurrection of the Dragon
Film poster
MandarinSān Guó Zhī Jiàn Lóng Xiè Jiǎ
CantoneseSaam1 Gwok3 Zi1 Gin3 Lung4 Se6 Gaap3
Directed byDaniel Lee
Produced byChung Taewon
Suzanna Tsang
Dong Yu
Written byLau Ho-leung
Daniel Lee
StarringAndy Lau
Sammo Hung
Maggie Q
Vanness Wu
Andy On
Ti Lung
Music byHenry Lai Wan-man
CinematographyTony Cheung
Edited byCheung Ka-fai
Tang Man-to
Visualizer Film
China Film Group
Beijing Polybona
Distributed byBeijing Polybona
Scholar Films
Release date
  • 3 April 2008 (2008-04-03)
Running time
101 minutes[1]
CountryHong Kong
South Korea
BudgetUS$20 million[2]
Box officeUS$21.2 million[3]
Korean name
삼국지: 용의 부활
Revised RomanizationSamgukji: Yong-ui Buhwal
McCune–ReischauerSamgukchi: Yong-ŭi Puwhal

The film publicity said that the film's script received inspiration of Chapter 92 of Romance of the Three Kingdoms.[5] Patrick Frater of Variety said that the book is often cited as one of the four most important works in the corpus of Chinese literature.[6] The book is also frequently read in South Korea. Unlike the source material, which casts three sworn brothers as the protagonists, the film uses Zhao Zilong, played by Andy Lau, as the lead character.[7] The film was one of the two Three Kingdoms-related films being produced in 2007, with the other being John Woo's two-part 288-minute Red Cliff.[6]


Zhao Zilong enlists in Liu Bei's army and befriends Luo Ping'an, a fellow soldier who is also from Changshan. He scores his first victory in a night raid on an enemy camp.

Liu Bei and his army retreat to Phoenix Heights when they get overwhelmed by Cao Cao's forces. When Luo fails his mission to escort Liu Bei's family to safety, Zhang Fei tries to execute him but Zhao intervenes. Zhao then engages Zhang Fei and Guan Yu in a duel and remains undefeated after several rounds. Liu Bei is so impressed that he gives Zhao his armour and sends him to save his family.

Guan Yu and Zhang Fei cover Zhao from enemy forces while he searches for survivors. After finding Liu Bei's son Liu Shan, Zhao straps the infant to his body as he fights his way through enemy lines and charges towards Cao Cao, who has been observing the battle on a cliff. Zhao seizes Cao Cao's sword and leaps to safety on the opposite cliff. Cao Cao's granddaughter, Cao Ying, witnesses the attack. Zhao later returns to Changshan as a hero and falls in love with a girl putting on a shadow puppet show dedicated to him.

Zhao continues to fight for Liu Bei and earns himself the nickname "Invincible General" as he has never lost a battle before. After Liu Bei becomes emperor of Shu, he names Zhao one of his Five Tiger Generals alongside Guan Yu, Zhang Fei, Ma Chao and Huang Zhong.

Following Liu Bei's death, Zhuge Liang persuades the new emperor, Liu Shan, to wage war against Wei. By then, a grey-haired Zhao is the only Tiger General still alive. He insists on going to battle and brings along Guan Xing, Zhang Bao, Luo Ping'an and Deng Zhi. Zhuge Liang gives him two envelopes and tells him when to open them.

Zhao and his army reach a fork in the road, where he opens the first envelope and follows the instructions. He splits his army into two groups: he leads one group while Guan Xing and Zhang Bao lead the other.

Zhao later encounters the Wei general Han De and slays his four sons. However, he falls into a trap set by the Wei commander, Cao Ying, and retreats to Phoenix Heights. While he is surrounded on all sides and his army has sustained heavy casualties, he opens the second envelope and learns that his task is actually to distract the Wei army while Guan Xing and Zhang Bao proceed to capture enemy territory.

After attempts by both sides to provoke each other into attacking, Zhao duels with Cao Ying and defeats her but lets her go. When the Wei forces advance towards Phoenix Heights, Zhao allows his subordinates to lead all his troops into battle. The Shu army is almost completely wiped out when the Wei forces use gunpowder traps. Han De and Deng Zhi perish in battle.

Zhao and Luo watch the battle and its aftermath from Phoenix Heights. At the end, Luo reveals that he has been very jealous of Zhao all these years because Zhao kept rising up the ranks while Luo remained a foot soldier. The two men make peace with each other and Luo helps Zhao remove his armour and tearfully beats the war drum as Zhao makes his final charge towards the enemy.


  • Andy Lau as Zhao Zilong, the main character. Regarding his performance, Lau said "There are three perspectives on Zhao; historians' professional knowledge, how normal people like us remember him and his character known through a popular computer game. I can't satisfy all these, but I tried to stay true to the script."[7] Sammo Hung said that "Lau had to portray a man from his 20s to 70s, and he did it perfectly, with the look in his eyes and all, particularly in the last scene when an invincible hero loses for the first time."[8]
  • Maggie Q as Cao Ying, a female warrior who wears men's clothing.[7] In the original story, the role was that of a male character.[8] To perform this role, Maggie Q performed several action sequences, learned how to speak Mandarin, and learned how to play the pipa, a Chinese musical instrument.[7] In addition, Maggie Q, a vegan, refused to wear or allow the use of real animal fur during the production of the film, so the costume she wore was made from faux fur instead.[9] Maggie Q said that at times she felt like an "outsider."[7] In regards to the action sequences, she said "It's tough being in these guy movies, I feel like I'm always in these guy movies, I really want to do a chick flick."[7] and in regards to the music work, she argued that she was "not a musician, not even close! It was a cause of a lot of stress. I would go to sleep crying. I feel myself more clumsy and not so feminine and so I just had shut Maggie off for a while and be this person and really believe it."[7] Maggie said in 2008 that while the film "was probably the most difficult film I've done yet," she obtained "love and respect" for Daniel Lee and "everything attracted me about the role and the film."[7] With regards to her character, she said that like Cao Ying, she "got to feel like that in this industry, where you sort of wish you could just be a woman and relax and be happy but it takes a lot of strength to be where you are."[7] Regarding Maggie Q's performance, Hung said "I had doubts. But she blew me away."[8] Zhang Yujiao played the younger Cao Ying.
  • Sammo Hung as Luo Ping'an, a soldier from the same hometown as Zhao Zilong.
  • Vanness Wu as Guan Xing, Guan Yu's son.
  • Andy On as Deng Zhi, a Shu general and a subordinate of Zhao Zilong.
  • Ti Lung as Guan Yu, Liu Bei's sworn brother and one of the Five Tiger Generals of Shu.
  • Elliot Ngok as Liu Bei, a warlord and the founding emperor of Shu.
  • Pu Cunxin as Zhuge Liang, Liu Bei's advisor and the chancellor of Shu.
  • Chen Zhihui as Zhang Fei, Liu Bei's sworn brother and one of the Five Tiger Generals of Shu.
  • Damian Lau as Cao Cao, a warlord and Liu Bei's rival.
  • Yu Rongguang as Han De, a Wei general and subordinate of Cao Ying.
  • Ding Haifeng as Zhang Bao, Zhang Fei's son.
  • Jiang Hongbo as Ruan'er, Zhao Zilong's romantic interest
  • Wang Hongtao as Huang Zhong, one of the Five Tiger Generals of Shu.
  • Menghe Wuliji as Ma Chao, one of the Five Tiger Generals of Shu.
  • Liang Yujin as Lady Gan, Liu Bei's wife.
  • Bai Jing as Lady Mi, Liu Bei's wife.
  • Zhao Erkang as Ruan'er's father
  • Timmy Hung as Han Ying, Han De's son.
  • Yang Jian as Han Yao, Han De's son.
  • Chen Guohui as Han Jing, Han De's son.
  • Zhang Mang as Han Qi, Han De's son.
  • Hu Jingbo as Liu Shan, the last emperor of Shu. Feng Xiaoxiao played the younger Liu Shan.

Replaced cast

Qian Zhijun was originally considered for the role of Liu Shan.[10] The film producers said that they invited Qian to act in the film because, in the words of China Radio International, "they think he's a really interesting guy and the movie needs a lighthearted character for comic relief."[11] An article from the China Film Group Corporation said that the role of Liu Shan suits Qian's appearance and that "Liu Shan was not a very bright person, the Chinese idiom lèbùsī shǔ (樂不思蜀[note 1]) originated from him, he was unassertive and submissive. To qualify for this role, an actor simply needs to relax his mind completely and have no thoughts. The level of difficulty in playing this character is 2 on a scale of 1 to 5 (in order of increasing level of difficulty)."[12] La Carmina of CNN said that Qian's obtaining of the role illustrated that he went "from obscurity to movie stardom".[13] In 2007 the film script was modified due to financing issues. The Liu Shan role was altered, and Qian's planned role in the film was removed.[14] The role of Liu Shan eventually went to Hu Jingbo.


The production companies involved in making the film are Visualizer Film Production Ltd, Taewon Entertainment, and SIL-Metropole Organization of mainland China. The individuals who headed the production were Susanna Tsang of Visualizer and Chung Taewon of Taewon. The Hong Kong company Golden Scene took sales rights within East Asia, including Japan. The company Polybona Films took sales rights within mainland China. Arclight Films took the international sales rights to the film, which it distributed under its Easternlight label. Arclight planned to handle the distribution at the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France and all other international points.[6]

Daniel Lee, the director, had a US$25 million budget.[15][16] The budget was used for his location shoots in mainland China, which were scheduled to begin in March 2007. Variety said that the film "apparently" was to have 40,000 extras. This would be twice the number of extras used in each of The Lord of the Rings films.[16] Sammo Hung, a martial artist, served as the choreographer of fighting scenes.[8][16] In addition, Sammo Hung also plays a character, Luo Ping'an, who is a friend of Zhao but becomes jealous of him. Hung expressed satisfaction in the performances of the actors.[8] As of 2008, it was the largest film production that Lee had directed.[15]

The creators opted to use computer graphics, a phenomenon common among war movies with large budgets made in the 2000s. Lee said that the computer graphics were crucial for the overall war scenes and for the smaller details. Lee explained that, while filming in a desert, the weather would change constantly, with rainy weather and sunny weather occurring during the day and snow occurring at night. To compensate for having "four seasons in one day," computer graphics were applied to alter the presentation of the setting.[8] Lee asked Mixfilm, a Korean company, to do the special effects for the film. Lee explained that "I wanted to film a 'documentary' version of 'The Three Kingdoms' through the characters. So I didn't want anything too beautified, and I am very satisfied with the results."[8]

With regards to historical accuracy in the film, Lee said that the creators were not striving for "100% historical authenticity which we were after" since "there were only fictional descriptions in Luo's novel and very limited reliable historical data on the costumes and weapons of the Three Kingdoms era, it did leave a lot of room for the imagination."[15] Lee further explained that "While insisting on retaining the Chinese cultural integrity of the designs, we decided to do a revamp of all the known elements derived from careful research and to develop a visual style that conveys the feelings and moods of the Three Kingdoms period."[15] Lee said that the historical China as depicted in the film "might differ from the historical looks in an average [viewer's] opinion, and would naturally surprise existing fans of the Three Kingdoms epic, [who] might already have their own preconceived visions of what each character, especially Zhao Zilong, looked like."[15] Lee stated that the film was not intended to perfectly represent the original work, which itself is derived from various fictions and oral traditions. Lee said that his film "incorporated more creative manifestations and personalization of the stories in order to explore the character of the legendary Zhao Zilong, both as a warrior and as a man."[15] Lee said that he had no intention of debasing the original work, nor did he have the intention of offending literary purists who were fans of the original book.[15]


Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by
Released20 April 2009
LabelJava Music Productions

Henry Lai Wan-man created the soundtrack. It has inspiration from the soundtracks of Ennio Morricone's "Dollars" films and several Hong Kong films such as Once Upon a Time in China.[5]

Track list:[17]

  1. Three Kingdoms (4:27)
  2. Story of Luo Ping'an (3:35)
  3. The Ambush Squad (9:12)
  4. Save the Young Lord (8:49)
  5. Love Theme (2:54)
  6. Shu March (0:47)
  7. The Five Generals (2:28)
  8. The Northern Expedition (1:21)
  9. The Dust Bowl (3:11)
  10. The Siege (1:53)
  11. The Karmic Wheel (2:00)
  12. The Romance of the Princess (1:55)
  13. Deng Zhi (0:56)
  14. Wei Funeral (3:03)
  15. Shu Requiem (2:51)
  16. Returning the Sword (2:35)
  17. The Duel (5:43)
  18. Zhao Army (1:56)
  19. Battle on the Phoenix Height (3:25)
  20. After the Snow (3:02)
  21. Resurrection of the Dragon (2:24)
  22. Zhao Zilong (2:26)


28th Hong Kong Film Awards[18]

  • Nominated: Best Cinematography (Tony Cheung)
  • Nominated: Best Art Direction (Daniel Lee & Horace Ma)
  • Nominated: Best Costume Makeup Design (Thomas Chong & Wong Ming Na)
  • Nominated: Best Action Choreography (Sammo Hung & Yuen Tak)
  • Nominated: Best Original Film Score (Henry Lai Wan-man)

3rd Asian Film Awards[19]

  • Won: Best Production Designer (Daniel Lee)
  • Nominated: Best Composer (Henry Lai Wan-man)


Dr. Ruby Cheung, the author of "Red Cliff: The Chinese-language Epic and Diasporic Chinese Spectators," described this film as one of the "immediate precedents" of the film Red Cliff.[20]


The world premiere of the film occurred at the CGV Yongsan Theater in central Seoul, South Korea, on Monday 31 March 2008. The main actors, Andy Lau and Maggie Q, director Daniel Lee, and crew member Sammo Hung. Many of Lau's fans waited for him outside of the CGV Yongsan; as of 2008 Lau is very popular in East Asian countries.[7]

The film was broadcast on Iran's National TV during Nowruz 2008.[21]


Derek Elley of Variety said that the "[t]ightly cut movie has almost no downtime but also no sense of rush" and that the cast "is relatively clearly defined, and details of costuming, armor and massive artillery have a fresh, unfamiliar look."[5] Elley added that the music "motors the picture and gives it a true heroic stature."[5]

There was controversy regarding the costumes worn by the cast, as some critics argued that Zhao Zilong's armour resembles the samurai's. Lee responded, saying that elements from Japanese soldier costumes originated from Chinese soldier costumes, so one should not be surprised that they appear like Japanese soldier costumes.[15] In addition, some critics said that Maggie Q, an American actress, was not suitable to be placed in a Chinese period piece, due to her Eurasian appearance. Lee argued that "We didn't find it a problem at all, as historically inter-ethnic marriages were a strategy of matrimonial alliances, commonly adopted by China's rulers to establish peace with the aggressive neighbouring, non-Chinese tribes."[15]

See also



  1. "Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon." (film database overview) The New York Times. Retrieved on 13 January 2012.
  2. "Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon".
  3. Total Gross: Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon
  4. ""Little Fatty" to Co-Star With Andy Lau in Big Screen Debut." China Radio International. 8 February 2007. Retrieved on 14 January 2012.
  5. Elley, Derek. "Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon." Variety. Friday 27 June 2008. Retrieved on 13 January 2012.
  6. Frater, Patrick. "'Kingdom' comes to Arclight Films." Variety. Thursday 3 May 2007. Retrieved on 13 January 2012.
  7. Lee, Hyo-won. "Three Kingdoms." Reuters at The China Post. Friday 4 April 2008. 1. Retrieved on 13 January 2012.
  8. Lee, Hyo-won. "Three Kingdoms." Reuters at The China Post. Friday 4 April 2008. 2. Retrieved on 13 January 2012.
  9. "PETA Announces the Best-Dressed Celebrities Archived 19 August 2010 at the Wayback Machine." PETA Asia Pacific. Retrieved on 13 January 2012.
  10. "草根英雄走出网络大行其道." 8 March 2007. Retrieved on 15 May 2011. "小胖,本名钱志君,因为2002年自己无意中的一个表情,五年来被各地网友不断 .... 他来 说最好的机会便是,电影《三国之见龙卸甲》邀请他出演角色,饰演刘备的儿子刘禅。"
  11. ""Little Fatty" on the Big Screen." China Radio International at the China Internet Information Center. 8 February 2007. Retrieved on 13 January 2012.
  12. "《赤壁》向左 《见龙》向右之完全PK手册" (Archive). China Film Corporation. 3 April 2008. Retrieved on 14 January 2012.
  13. Carmina, La. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 3 April 2010. Retrieved 16 May 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link) CNN. 16 March 2010. Retrieved on 11 May 2011. "However, Little Fatty went from obscurity to movie stardom: he played the Last Emperor opposite Maggie Q, Andy Lau and Sammo Hung in Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon."
  14. "小胖和芙蓉姐姐划清界限 胡戈对内地电影没信心." SDNews. 3 July 2007. Retrieved on 19 January 2012.
  15. Teh, Yvonne. "The Three Kingdoms Resurrected." (Archive) BC Magazine. Carpe Diem Publications. Retrieved on 13 January 2012.
  16. "Maggie Q Finds The Three Kingdoms." Empire (source: Variety). 16 October 2006. Retrieved on 13 January 2012.
  17. Original Soundtrack for the movie Three Kingdoms – Resurrection Of The Dragon.
  18. "List of Nominees and Awardees of The 28th Hong Kong Film Awards". Hong Kong Film Awards. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  19. "3rd AFA Nominees & Winners". Asian Film Awards. Archived from the original on 10 June 2014. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  20. Cheung, Ruby. "Red Cliff: The Chinese-language Epic and Diasporic Chinese Spectators." Published in: Burgoyne, Robert. The Epic Film. Taylor & Francis, 1 August 2009. 202. Retrieved from Google Books on 13 January 2012. ISBN 0-415-99017-3, ISBN 978-0-415-99017-2.
  21. Tehran Times Art Desk. "Oscar-winning “Slumdog Millionaire” slated for IRIB’s Noruz repertoire Archived 29 July 2012 at" Tehran Times. Wednesday 4 March 2009. Retrieved on 13 January 2012.

Further reading

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