Most comments for "The Promise", or "Wu Ji", on the IMDb forum are mainly negative. While it's obvious a film that could have been better, it still offers a stunning look that Chen Kaige has given it.
It helps he was working with an excellent cinematographer, Peter Pau, who photographed this film with lovingly care. The result are exquisite images that might not mean a lot to the fans of films of this genre, but will delight others, like this viewer, who is not into this type of fantasy film. The music of Klaus Badelt plays well in the context of the movie. The film has some of the fabulous costumes of any film in recent memory.
It's easy to dismiss the film as a total failure. Other, more recent fare is cited as being much better, which could be true. But actually to experience the film as a gorgeous fantasy out of the talented director Chen Kaige's mind is worth the price of admission. Unfortunately, judging by the screening we attended recently, this film has not found an audience.
Dong-Kun-Jang is impressive as Kunlun. Hiroyuki Sanada also does good work as the General Quianming. The gorgeous Cecilia Cheung lends her beauty to her character, Princess Qingcheng.
The director will surely recover from this experience and concentrate on a more worthwhile story for his next venture. Chen Kaige deserves better and he will surely rise from the ashes like the magnificent phoenix he is.