How The Heroic Trio Broke New Ground for Superhero Movies

The Heroic Trio, a 1993 Hong Kong action-fantasy film starring Michelle Yeoh, Anita Mui, and Maggie Cheung, is getting a 4K Blu-Ray release from the Criterion Collection. The film, directed by Johnnie To and choreographed by Ching Siu-Tong, is widely regarded as a cult classic and a pioneer in the superhero genre, featuring three female leads with distinct personalities and powers.

The film follows the adventures of three heroines who join forces to stop a sinister plot by an immortal eunuch to kidnap newborn male babies and create a new dynasty. The heroines are:

  • Tung, aka Wonder Woman, a masked vigilante and the wife of a police inspector. She uses a flying guillotine as her weapon and has a sense of justice and duty.
  • Ching, aka Invisible Woman, a former disciple of the eunuch who can turn invisible and fly. She is initially an antagonist, but later redeems herself and joins the trio.
  • Chat, aka Thief Catcher, a bounty hunter and a former partner of Ching. She rides a motorcycle and uses a shotgun and explosives. She is witty, rebellious, and independent.

The film combines elements of wuxia, a genre of Chinese martial arts fiction, and superhero comics, creating a unique and original style. The film features spectacular action scenes, such as a fight on a moving train, a showdown in an underground lair, and a final battle in a palace. The film also showcases the talents and charisma of the three stars, who display impressive martial arts skills, comic timing, and emotional range.

The Heroic Trio: A Feminist and Political Statement

The film is notable for being one of the first superhero movies to feature a female-led cast, and for having a female screenwriter, Sandy Shaw. The film does not shy away from exploring the issues and challenges faced by women in a patriarchal society, such as sexism, domestic violence, motherhood, and identity. The film also portrays the heroines as complex and flawed characters, who have their own motivations, conflicts, and growth arcs.

The film also has a political subtext, as it was made during the transition period of Hong Kong from British colonial rule to Chinese sovereignty. The film reflects the anxieties and uncertainties of the Hong Kong people, who faced an unknown future and a possible loss of freedom and identity. The film’s villain, the eunuch, represents the threat of authoritarianism and imperialism, while the heroines represent the resistance and the hope of the Hong Kong people.

The Heroic Trio: A Cult Classic and a Criterion Release

The film was a commercial and critical success in Hong Kong and Asia, and gained a cult following in the West. The film spawned a sequel, Executioners, which was also included in the Criterion Collection release. The film has been praised by critics and fans for its originality, creativity, and entertainment value, and has been compared favorably to other superhero movies, such as Tim Burton’s Batman and Marvel’s Black Widow.

The Criterion Collection, a prestigious distributor of classic and contemporary films, has recognized the film’s significance and influence by giving it a 4K Blu-Ray release, with restored picture and sound quality, and supplementary features, such as interviews, trailers, and essays. The release is a testament to the film’s enduring legacy and appeal, and a tribute to the three stars, especially Anita Mui, who passed away in 2003.

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