HK Theatrical Version
Love it or hate it. "The Promise" makes it easy for the audience. Only Warner was looking for the middle course and asked director Chen Kaige to shorten his movie - which did not really awake enthusiasm, even among an audience that could really like the movie. But they were also unable to reduce the number of haters - for this, the movie is (compared to western standards) simply too different.
It is unknown, which group of people were thought to be the target audience for the first theatrical version released by the Weinstein brothers - the version missed out on a lot of footage (about 30 minutes). We also neither know in what way the Weinstein version differs from the Warner version (which was "only" missing about 20 minutes of footage), nor what they have in common.
But it seems to get quite clear what was so disturbing for Warner when you take a closer look at the outtakes and listen to Chen Kaige's comments during a short interview. Grinning he says that obviously the western audience needs to have a more simple version of movies that explains everything more than once so that everyone is able to understand it. At least that's what Warner seems to think. And to be honest, sometimes they are right. But does such an audience even need a movie like "The Promise"? And doesn't the name of the label "Warner Independent" force you to abandon anything too mainstream that is appealing for a more "intelligent" audience?
Instead, they just simplified the plot by deleting the complex characterization of the main character. Heroes that cry? Yearning for a woman? Contradictions in one's actions? No thanks, the movie has some action sequences. Since the focus of the studio seemed to be the success of the movie, there's no room for emotions.
But that's not completely true, obviously Warner also didn't want to show too much of the action. Therefore, some of the action sequences were shortened as well (especially when they were too extravagant and dynamic). Of course, that doesn't work too well and most of these cuts seem to be pretty random.
Consequently, they also deleted the occasional semblances of humor which indeed sometimes seem to be a little misplaced.
To get a PG-13, they also had to cut out three violent scenes and some of the sex - but that really carries no weight.
But what about the additional scenes at the end of the movie that are meant to help the western audience to get the message of the moive?
The international version's new beginning introduces the characters to the audience. At least it uses some nice pictures, but compared to other Chinese movies, Wu Ji only offers 6 relevant characters, therefore the intro is pretty senseless. But the ending is definitively unnecessary. Who at the end of the movie really has to hear a brief summary (the princess gets the chance to annul her fateful promise that she made when she was a little girl and is therefore able to change her future) probably left his brain at home.
Love it or hate it. There are many parts of "Wu Ji" that invite you to critisize it. In fact, if you concentrate on all its flaws, you will hate the movie. But if you enjoy the movie's props, costumes, and imaginative scenery as much as their producers, you will probably love it. No movie made in western country offers as much flamboyancy as "The Promise" does - one of the Far Eastern movies' attractions. And those who are really interested in this, will probably want to see the uncut version of the movie and has no interest in compromizing.
Compared to the original version, the international version, offers 82 differences and is 19 minutes and 30 seconds shorter. At the beginning and the end of the movie, the international version offers additional footage that altogether runs for 55.5 seconds.
The international version offers an additional intro that introduces you to the main characters.
Kunlun can be seen behind the buffalos a little longer. A part of this scene where several men are impaled can be seen at 12:18 in the international version.
18.5 seconds (- 2.5 seconds)
The two armies approach one another a little longer.
A little more tumult of the battle.
General Guangming slays one of his opponents with his golden orb - at the same time, one of his soldiers hits the same enemy's head with a soup ladle and seems to be happy about his (alleged) success.
Now, the general grabs one of his men and pulls him towards himself.
18:00 The black screen at the end of the jubilation is shown slightly longer. 0.5 seconds
The general rides away and Kunlun (his new slave) follows him. Thereby, he shortly turns around to his former master's (=the slaver) grave.
After Guangming and Kunlun got lost in the woods, they split up. The international version now misses a long sequence where the general meets the goddess Manshen - the general's arrogance and pretension can be noticed distinctly.
Guangming notices the goddess in the woods and creeps up on her with his produced sword. Surprisingly she asks him if he would also kill innocents. He denies it, but she reminds him of all the slaves he killed in the last battle. He tries to slay the goddess for her impudence but she dissolves and reappears behind him. Their conversation goes on and he still threatens her with his sword (definitively rather playfully than seriously).
Manshen seems to know a lot about Guangming - she even knows his future. She predicts that the (former) successful warlord won't succeed any longer on the battlefield. She also shows him how his king will die. At the end of the scene she shows him the correct direction through the woods. Then, the international version continues.
5 minutes and 10.5 seconds
During the fight against Snow Wolf the general is lying on the floor a little longer before the slave arrives.
22:27 A longer shot of Snow Wolf. 7 Frames.
When the princess advances on the roof, one of the soldier's gumshields gets loose.
Wuhuan hands a scepter (that literally gives her thumbs up) over to the princess who minces around on the roof.
The king fumes at the princess' fraud.
The king follows the princess across the roof a little longer (with his sword produced).
27:21 Ditto. 2.5 seconds
The king strikes at the princess a little longer.
The princess falls a little longer before Kunlun catches her.
Wuhuan jumps off his horse and lands on his soldiers who built some sort of throne. Then he tells the (alleged) general that he admires his nefariousness. While he had to plan his attack to be able to kidnap the princess for more than a year, the general was able to achieve this in just a few minutes.
Qingcheng lasciviously lurks around Wuhuan inside the cage a little longer.
30:58 Ditto. 3 seconds
She bewitches him a little longer, standing on the stairs of the cage. But he says that she won't be able to allure him. She goes on taking his mind off things by showing him her leg; then she produces a dagger and holds it at his throat. He stays calm and enrages her by saying that she's responsible for Kunlun's (wearing the general's armor) suicide. When she wants to stab him, he slumps out of the cage. She throws the dagger after him. During his backflip he parries the dagger off with his feet and tosses it at the wall. After a few more flips he lands on the floor.
The goddess Manshen tells the general, when the princess will be able to find her true love - when the moon and the sun can be seen in the sky at the same time, rivers float upwards, and the last cherry blossom fell from the trees.
Kunlun pulls Qingcheng across the cave a little longer.
The scene where he runs across the roof with her is longer, too.
Kunlun flies after the falling Qingcheng to catch her.
Kunlun holds the princess back when she wants to run through the gate towards the general. She turns around and cuffs him before she goes on.
Wuhuan and Kunlun who was taken prisoner approach each other a little longer.
The soldiers try to catch the floating feather. Wuhuan is amused.
Kunlun runs around in the iron cage a little longer. Snow Wolf runs behind him.
43:54 Ditto. 5 seconds
45:25 The black screen is shown a little longer. 3 seconds
When Qingcheng pulls up the general's golden helmet, the ventail falls down.
When qingcheng looks at him sceptically, Guangming smiles longer and and more obvious.
Guangming gets a little pusyh in the pavillon and presses his lips on Qingcheng's face - but you can't call that a kiss. She fights back and pushes him away. The general laughs - he obviously seems to know that kind of behavior. He's not the romanticist she's looking for - a person who (just like her) got to know the man in the armor back in the days. She puts his helmet back on his head.
46:17 In the international version now follows the shot of a tree in front of the pavillon which in the Hong Kong version already had been shown. - 3.5 seconds
46:27 When Kulun watches the bathing princess, he can be seen staring at her in a close up shot. 2.5 seconds
Kunlun makes the bed for the princess and then for his master. He seems to be a little clumsy and shy. The princess and the general by contrast seem to be amused. In the next shot where Kunlun pulls his overhang off he can be seen a little longer in the international version.
40 seconds (- 1 second)
47:15 The black screen is shown a little longer. 1 second
Qingcheng sits on top of the general. Before she kisses him, she asks him if he's still afraid of her rejecting him.
After the kiss, the international version fades to the next scene a little earlier. In the Hong Kong version you see Qingcheng walk off. She says "Good night." and then closes her door. The general watches her wistfully.
The next morning, Qingcheng in front of the house tells Guangming that everyone she loves has to die. He feels betrayed. He tells his slave to kill Qingcheng. He produces his sword, approaches the princess but then pauses. Qingcheng addresses him and says that she can't change her destiny. She says that Kunlun has to learn to stand up for himself and stop being obedient. If he achieved this, he should look for her. The general laughs and shows his arrogance by saying that she will sooner or later come back to him - at tha latest when the cherry tree loses its blossoms (just like in the goddess' prophecy). He even tells his slaves to get his horse so she will be back even faster.
Guangming dismisses the slave. In the Hong Kong version, the reason for this act is that the slave didn't obay his order.
You see the ice landscape. From a distance, you can see Kunlun's mother and a little girl running towards the valley really fast.
General Guangming sits in his home - he is all alone and drinks. Then he recognizes that the tree in front of his hosue alreadly loses its blossoms - one of them fell in his glass. He fears that Qingcheng won't be back in time - maybe she will never return. Therefore, he picks the strawmats from his roof and builds a little protection around the tree that is meant to prevent the tree from losing any more blossoms because of the wind. But he can't prevent it in the long run; that's why he stays in his house and continues drinking.
Kunlun tells the general that he learned to run faster than time. The general is unenthusiastic about this and fiddles his apple around some more. He moons over the princess. Kunlun reminds the general of Quingcheng which makes him cry. When the sun goes down (and with it the last chance of Quingcheng's return), he sobbingly walks around before Kunlun takes him along - back to the point in time when Quingcheng left.
Kunlun runs longer, carrying the general on his back.
When Guangming and the princess caress each other he recognizes that the sun and the moon can be seen in the sky at the same time - a reminder of the goddess' prophecy. He now knows that he's not the princess' true love - Kunlun is. When Kunlun shows up, the general turns the princess away and gives her a squeeze so that she can't see Kunlun. He promises himself that she one day will love him.
When she finally notices him, Kunlun tells the princess that he now knows how to come to his own decisions and that he wants to return to his home. Qingcheng watches him wistfully but satisfied.
55:20 One of the cross-fades from Kunlun to the general and the princess is slightly shorter. 1.5 seconds
The sex scene between the general and the princess is longer.
The soldiers (who came to the general's house to ask him to return) regret to have accompanied with Wuhuan. In the international version you don't get this information.
Somebody throws Wuhuan's golden hand to the general. He shortly looks at it and then throws it back since he's not interested in returning with the soldiers.
When Qingcheng hands the red armor over to the soldier, the scene was re-cut.
10.5 seconds longer
Wuhuan laughs a little longer inside the cage.
Kunlun jumps across the palace's roof.
When Snow Wolf meets Wuhuan wearing the red armor, the latter tells him that he can't give the armor away since he now captains the general's army.
Wuhuan and Snow Wolf fight longer.
Wuhuan laughs at Snow Wolf.
A shot of Wuhuan before Snow Wolf comes out of the wood.
The two of them twirl through the room a little longer.
Wuhuan is standing in the middle and watches Snow Wolf who runs through the turnung walls in an insane speed.
Lone Wolf is happy when he gives the armor to Kuluan.
He (in horror) recognizes Wuhuan in the background.
After Snow Wolf for the last time was asked to give back either the armor or his cape (that keeps him alive), he leans at Kunlun before he steps back to take his cape off.
Snow Wolf is close to tears when he talks to Kunlun for the last time and admits that he betrayed himself.
After the general says that he killed the king out of love for the princess, Wuhuan walks over to him and asks him if he's sure that he wants to die for a woman.
83:47 The general can be seen tied up for a little longer. 2 seconds
Immediately after the general threatened Wuhuan to kill him, the latter approaches him and apologizes. He apologizes for believing that the general - his idol - could be able to kill the king for a woman. Then he tanks the princess for whitewashing the general's reputation.
The final confronation was re-cut and shortened for the international release. Here are the additional scenes:
Wuhuan shortly explains the conditions about the love to the princess to Kulun. He also explains why Qingcheng's promise that she made when she was a kid ruined them both.
Now follow several flashbacks to the battlefield (-> scenes from the beginning of the movie) when Qingcheng runs away with the apple in his hands. The Hong Kong version at this point is longer. Wuhuan wallows a little heavier in self-pity.
The general starts to cry, moved by the tragic of the situation. When Wuhuan asks him about it, the general says that it is because Wuhuan is still not able to give up and let the whole thing rest.
The general asks Wuhuan for the cave that ensures his survival. Wuhuan sheds a tear, proud of (allegedly) having beaten his idol. Then the general asks why he should believe that he's ready to bow to him.
You see Wuhuan in tears.
88:59 The camera pans from the tree to Wuhuan. 3.5 seconds
Wuhuan is shown a little longer with the dagger in his chest. The princess watches this scene.
Wuhuan is shown bleeding to death a little longer.
The princess watches the (half) dead men on the floor a little longer.
When he braces up, Kunlun groans with pain a little longer.
In the international version there's an additional shot of the goddess. Additionally, it's her who speaks the last words to Qingcheng, explaining that she in fact is able to change her destiny. In the Hong Kong version it's Kunlun who says these words when he flies back to the past (= the beginning of the story) with Qingcheng.
- 6.5 seconds
Kunlun and Qingcheng fly high into the sky a little longer.
In the international version, the goddess goes on: while you see the young Qingcheng walking across the water, she again says that she's able to change her destiny.
- 8.5 seconds