The Sorcerer and the White Snake (Bai she chuan shuo) (2011)

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Released 22-Feb-2012

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Trailer-x 6 for other films
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2011
Running Time 98:05
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Siu-Tung Ching
Studio
Distributor
Icon Entertainment Starring Jet Li
Shengyi Huang
Raymond Lam
Charlene Choi
Zhang Wen
Vivian Hsu
Miriam Yeung Chin Wah
Kar-Ying Law
Suet Lam
Chapman To
Case ?
RPI ? Music Mark Lui


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Chinese Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English (Burned In) Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

†††† Sisters White Snake (Huang Shengyi) and Green Snake (Charlene Choi) are demons who can take human form. One day in the mountains they see Xian Xu (Raymond Lam) and his friends collecting herbs. White Snake wants to experience human love; she saves Xian from drowning with a kiss, then later comes to his town, contrives to meet him and they fall in love and marry. Abbott Fahai (Jet Lee) and his disciple Neng Ren (Wen Zhang) are demon hunters, trapping demons and imprisoning them in their temple. When they are drawn into town by an epidemic of demon bats infecting people, a conflict between the human and demon world is inevitable, a conflict in which the love of White Snake and Xian will be surely tested.

†††† Based on a Chinese legend, The Sorcerer and the White Snake (Bai she chuan shuo) is directed by Ching Siu-Tung who is no novice to action films having worked, for example, as action coordinator on John Wooís wonderful The Killer as far back as 1989 and more recently on The Curse of the Golden Flower for Zhang Yimou in 2006. However, his directorial efforts have not been as impressive. He does have the excellent A Chinese Ghost Story (1987) to his credit but more recent efforts, such as The Empress and the Warriors (2008) staring Donnie Yen, while visually impressive, was let down by an uneven tone juxtaposing romance and spectacle and a mundane story.

†††† The Sorcerer and the White Snake shares a number of things with The Empress and the Warriors. It is first and foremost lushly romantic, with lots of tears, kisses with soft focus visuals and a swelling music score and people sacrificing themselves for love. Mixed in with this is a bit of martial arts. Although Jet Li gives a solid performance his martial arts skills are wasted as he either fights female non-martial artists, with such jumpy editing that little can be seen, or swirling clouds of CGI demons, swords, snakes or inanimate objects. Indeed, the main talking point of The Sorcerer and the White Snake is the extensive use of GCI in basically every scene.

†††† DanielB in his review of the Blu-ray release of The Sorcerer and the White Snake on this site here noted that the aim of the film seems to be to throw as many effects at the screen as possible rather than tell a story, which is pretty much spot on. Some of these effects are quite good, such as a sequence on the water with boats spinning into the air spilling people and goods, others are downright shoddy, such as when Fahai clings to a demon flying into a mountain, something that looks like a poor relation to the Balrog / Gandalf sequence in LOTR. Some of the other sequences are just silly, and the climax underwhelming.

†††† Yet, The Sorcerer and the White Snake still has lots to enjoy. It is beautiful to look at, and Huang Shengyi is a fetching heroine, in whatever form she takes, while the film is done with such good humour, never taking things too seriously, and infectious exuberance, including the lush romantic score, that it is best just to go with the flow and enjoy it.

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Transfer Quality

Video

†††† Like the Blu-ray, this DVD of The Sorcerer and the White Snake is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. The original theatrical ratio is given by the IMDb as 2.35:1 but I have some doubts, although the film does occasionally look cropped with people talking half out of frame. However, of the other releases of the film in Asia, the Region 3 Hong Kong and Taiwan versions are both listed at 1.78:1, as is the Region 6 Chinese version. The only one with a different ratio listed is the Region 0 Chinese at 2.35:1.

†††† This is a wonderful print, as crisp and sharp as one might expect of a recent film. Colours are generally enhanced, with quite bright reds and greens. Blacks are intense, shadow detail excellent. I did not notice any artefacts of any kind.

†††† The burnt in English subtitles are in a smallish white font that sometimes flash by too quickly to read fully. In addition, there are a number of light coloured scenes, against which the white subtitles can be hard to see. I did not notice any spelling or grammatical errors.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

†††† The only audio choice is Chinese Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 Kbps.

†††† This is a good enveloping audio track. Dialogue is fine and centred, the surrounds are constantly in use for music, sound effects and the odd panning effect during fights. The sub-woofer comes to life during the destruction sequences and adds bass to the music.

†††† The score by Mark Lui suits the film. It is lushly romantic and sometimes over the top.

†††† Lip synchronisation was sometimes off as if some of the characters were speaking Mandarin, others Cantonese.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

†††† Trailers for My Kingdom (1:33) and Flying Swords of Dragon Gate (2:07) play on inserting the disc. They cannot be selected from the menu and must be skipped.

Wu Xing Trailers

†††† These trailers can be selected from the menu: Bruce Lee My Brother (2:32), The Lost Bladesman (1:02), Mulan (2:02) and 14 Blades (2:36).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

†††† Yesasia.com lists Region 3 Hong Kong and Taiwan versions, and Region 6 and Region 0 Chinese versions. The Region 3 versions both are listed at a ratio of 1.78:1 and have English subtitles for the feature; the Region 3 HK has a trailer and making of, but they may not be subtitled in English. The Region 6 is also listed as 1.78:1, while the Region 0 is listed at 2.35:1, but neither have English subtitles. There is a Region 1 US release without extras listed on Amazon.com, but there is no information on the aspect ratio. I cannot find a Region 2 UK release at this time. The local release seems the way to go in this case, despite the aspect ratio.

Summary

†††† The Sorcerer and the White Snake makes extensive use of CGI effects. It is beautiful to look at, Huang Shengyi is a fetching heroine, and the film is done with such good humour and infectious exuberance that it is best just to go with the flow.

†††† The video and audio are very good, although it appears to be in the wrong aspect ratio. The extras are only trailers for other films.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Friday, May 25, 2012
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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