Director Feng Xiaogang creates several beautiful scenes throughout much of The Banquet, but relies too heavily on music-video level imagery that's supposed to be Important and Mean Something, but is too often stagey and boring. Ge You as the Emperor Li and Zhou Xun as Qing Nu are highly watchable as a treacherous man who can't believe his own betrayal and a young woman far too moral to survive the immorality of the court, and Ziyi Zhang is excellent as the prideful and conflicted Empress Wan, but Daniel Wu lends no energy to The Banquet's often plodding pace as Wu Luan and his blank performance can't keep the movie from drowning in its director's pretensions.
Nätterqvist and Helin are both convincing as young lovers who reunite seasoned by their experiences, and director Peter Flinth spares little expense with his continent-sprawling story. But he's an unimaginative storyteller overall -- when a character talks about something happening at the next full moon, lo and behold we switch to a shot of the waxing moon -- and doesn't really justify some of the interestingly modern behavior and viewpoints of his 12th century characters. Again, it may be fairer to judge the extended original product to get a clearer picture of Arn the Knight Templar; the shorter version of the movie Arn: The Knight Templar doesn't really offer one.
Again, the story relies on wild coincidences and some pretty out-there plot twists. But both leads manage to sell these implausibilities as they tell the story of people who sometimes have to choose between "the greater of two goods or the lesser of two evils," as one character says in the movie. Director Kunal Kohli wisely hangs back and gives them the space to do so, relegating the eye-roll factor in the plot mostly to the background.