“The Heroic Trio” is a flashy kung fu superheroine adventure full of solid production values but marred by some disturbingly gratuitous plot elements. Hard-core kung fu fans, however, will probably be unfazed by such indelicacies.
Although the chief superheroine is called Wonder Woman (Anita Mui), she’s far removed from the Lynda Carter TV character. In both costumes and ambience, “Trio” is closer to “Batman” and takes an even more noirish tone. The other two heroines are more ambiguous characters, one a reckless Rambo-type (Maggie Cheung), the other (Michelle Yeoh), at the outset, a henchwoman of the story’s master villain.
Plot revolves around the villain’s demented scheme to breed future emperors of China; at film’s opening, 18 babies have been mysteriously kidnapped. For those who find children-in-peril stories in questionable taste, pic carries the concept considerably further, with infants often endangered and one baby killed.
Some of the stolen children are shown grown to early adolescence and, in preparation for their bloodthirsty future, are fed human flesh. Adding to some of the less digestible plot aspects, two of the heroines decide that these boys are now beyond rehabilitation and proceed to annihilate them.
Other plot and thematic developments include: two sisters separated early in life before being reunited as supercomrades, a doom-laden romance, a superheroine married to a cop — in short, enough goings-on to support not only a sequel but a kung fu soap opera series.
Film’s ambitious plot range, however, does not always mesh with recurring comic-book tone. Full-blown climax has heroines battling their nemesis both above and below ground as the villain, as in “Terminator 2,” continues to struggle even when reduced to skeletal remains.
Sets by Bruce Yu and Raymond Chan and lensing by Poon Hang Seng and Tom Lau provide moody evocations both for the evildoers’ subterranean hideout and the exteriors and interiors of the city above. Lead actresses all acquit themselves well, with the ubiquitous Cheung still faring best.