There’s a corpse on the battlefield still clutching a bit of bread, and Qingcheng’s hunger-sharpened eyes don’t miss it. The starving girl snatches up the ration and runs away, only to drop her prize in the river. Her sobs attract the mercy of the goddess Manshen (Chen Hong), who offers the girl the chance to put a kink in her fate—she will be beautiful, wealthy, adored, and safe, but only if she accepts being abandoned by every man she loves. Twenty years later, the adult Qingcheng (Cecilia Cheung) is just as the goddess promised, and just as tormented by the three men in her life: the general Guangming (Hiroyuki Sanada), who earned her love the day he rode up in his resplendent Crimson Armor and saved her from death; the slave Kunlun (Jang Dong Gun), who burns with the knowledge that it was he who wore the armor that day; and the cruel duke Wuhuan (Nicholas Tse), who would like to cage Qingcheng like a canary to avenge a distant slight. This soaring supernatural epic contains as much visual mitochondria from Chinese opera and paintings of the Eight Immortals as it does from Ziggy Stardust, The Road Warrior, and Soul Calibur, creating a style that in scene after overripe scene regrettably overshoots audacious and ends up ridiculous. Director Chen Kaige (Farewell My Concubine) may have tried to marry the shameless melodrama of the story to an appropriately luxurious style, but cherry blossom petals can fall with poetic grace for only so long before you end up in unicorn bookmark territory.