Flying Swords of Dragon Gate (Long men fei jia) (Blu-ray 3D) (2011)

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Released 25-May-2012

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Adventure Calibration Signals-DTS-MA HD sound check
Trailer-x 4 (for other films)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2011
Running Time 122:13 (Case: 121)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Hark Tsui
Studio
Distributor
Icon Entertainment Starring Jet Li
Xun Zhou
Kun Chen
Lunmei Kwai
Yuchun Li
Mavis Fan
Siu-Wong Fan
Chia Hui Liu
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Wai Lap Wu


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Chinese DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
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

     Legendary Hong Kong director/writer/producer Tsui Hark is coming back to form of late after, for him, a bit of a lean spell. Known for producing some of John Woo’s best films, such as The Killer (1989) and A Better Tomorrow I & II (1986, 1987) as well as martial arts masterpieces such as Iron Monkey (1993), he also directed Jet Li in the wonderful Once Upon a Time in China series (I 1991, II 1992, III 1993). His wonderful recent Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame (2010) marked a return to big, opulent, entertaining productions of which Flying Swords of Dragon Gate, once again with Jet Li and using 3D technology, is another. Flying Swords of Dragon Gate (Long men fei jia) is an action tale involving heroes, corrupt court officials, buried treasure, inventive martial arts, huge sets, CGI, a myriad of plot strands and a cast of thousands.

     Ming Dynasty China: the Emperor’s eunuchs have acquired great power, enriching themselves while sentencing to death any honest official who stands up to them or who tries to warn the Emperor. Zhao Huai’an (Jet Li) leads a small band who save honest officials and kill the eunuchs’ officials and best fighters. Eunuch Yu Huatian (Chen Kun), a martial arts expert of the highest order, determines to track down and kill Zhao. Meanwhile palace maid Su Huirong (Mavis Fan) fears for her life after falling pregnant. Fleeing the palace she is saved from death by a mysterious stranger (Zhou Xun), who for some reason claims to be Zhao. Escorting Su towards safety, the two arrive at the Dragon Gate Inn on the edge of the desert. And this is where it gets really complicated!

     Eunuch Yu has anticipated the fugitives will travel via Dragon Gate so has sent some disguised Imperial soldiers to the inn while he waits in a fort nearby with more soldiers. Already at the inn are a band of Tartar bandits led by female warrior Chang Xiaowen (Gwei Lunmei) and her tattooed giant fighter H’Gantga (Han Feixing); they take an immediate dislike to the disguised soldiers. Shortly after another two people arrive at the inn; Gu Shaotang (Li Yuchun) and her companion Wind Blade, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Eunuch Yu. It appears that the Tartars and Gu have come to the inn with a purpose: nearby burried in the sand is a lost city with a fabulous treasure. Every 60 years, according to legend, a massive tornado will strike the area, revealing the hidden city, and that 60 years is about to happen! When Zhao also arrives, the mysterious stranger is revealed to be Ling Yanqiu, the woman who until three years ago had owned Dragon Gate Inn before setting it on fire and disappearing. It is also clear that Ling and Zhao have had a previous relationship. As the tornado wind intensifies, and Yu also arrives with his Imperial troops, the motives of the competing parties are revealed, and loyalties put to the test.

     If this sounds complicated, it is. Tsui, as writer, has thrown a myriad of plot-lines and characters into Flying Swords of Dragon Gate. The film starts off simply enough with some spectacular martial arts and CGI action featuring Jet Li and the rescue of an honest official in a shipyard, and then goes on to the saving of Su Huirong by Ling in disguise. These sequences are Tsui Hark doing what he does best; explosive martial arts action featuring wire work and CGI flying objects. But once everyone is at Dragon Gate Inn, the action bogs down for a while and it is difficult to follow who is who, especially on the Imperial side. And of course there is the additional plot-lines added to the hunt for Zhao by Yu; the one concerning buried treasure, the relationship between Zhao and Ling and some business to do with the resemblance of Wind Blade to Yu. But then comes the climax, full of invention and action, which again ramps up the excitement quota as all is revealed.

     I first saw Flying Swords of Dragon Gate on an aircraft over the Indian Ocean, and even with a tiny screen it was obvious that the film was a 3D effort. The opening tracking shot dodges through and around the rigging and masts of ships in the shipyard, and in the first fight logs and various weapons fly at the viewer from all angles. These 3D effects continued throughout the film: the flight of an eagle, throwing knives and various pieces of scenery fly through the frame at frequent intervals. In these 3D effects Hark is not at all subtle, something matched by the CGI. CGI enhancement is a staple of epic filmmaking these days and can be used to open out scenes and produce stunts that are too dangerous for humans, or animals. Done well it enhances the plot and the viewing experience, but in Flying Swords of Dragon Gate it is overused and the battle between Zhao and Yu in the middle of a sand storm tornado, with tiny figures spinning around, I found just silly, although others may not agree. When the fights come back to earth, even with wire work, they are far more inventive and interesting.

     With so many people in the cast, some have very little to do, such as Li Yuchun who is wasted. In contrast, Gwei Lunmei as the dreadlocked Tartar and tattooed giant fighter Han Feixing do manage to stand out and seem to be having a good time. Jet Li has some good action sequences, but in truth the wirework and excessive CGI do him no favours, while pop singer Mavis Fan, in a role that requires her to be passive for most of the film, is quite effective as a character who is not all she seems.

     There is really too much plot and too many characters in Flying Swords of Dragon Gate but at its best the film is an invigorating spectacle; big, bold and loud, with inventive action sequences and extensive use of CGI and 3D effects. Flying Swords of Dragon Gate continues Tsui Hark’s return to epic filmmaking.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Flying Swords of Dragon Gate is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the original ratio, using MPEG-4 AVC. It is 1080p. At start up, either the 2D or 3D version of the film can be selected.

     This film not only features massive amounts of CGI effects; almost every scene seems to have been digitally manipulated. The result is that a number of scenes appear soft, with a muted colour scheme, especially when the plot arrives at the inn after which there is a sepia looking brown palate. I imagine that this is the look the filmmakers wanted, and the print does look OK, without artefacts of any kind. Blacks are intense, shadow detail good.

     The white burnt in English subtitles are in American English and are easy to read. I will give credit here to those doing the subtitles: when there is a light coloured background on part of the screen the subtitles are moved to one side of the frame so that they are easy to read. Well done. 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 DTS-MA HD 5.1.

     This is a very aggressive audio track, with lots going on. Dialogue is fine and centred, although when those speaking are off-screen, such as in the cave sequence, their voices come from the surrounds. Indeed, the surrounds are constantly in use for ambient effects, and well and truly spring to life when anything active is happening on screen such as the flock of birds, the storm, or fights. During fight sequences throwing knives flash past and swords clang and swish to very good effect. The music score is also a constant in the surrounds. The sub-woofer supports the storm, music and crash of various pieces of furniture and equipment.

     The score by Wu Wai-lap is not subtle. It sounds like many martial arts scores, big and noisy, and so suits the film.

     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

DTS-HD Sound Check

     Test your speakers’ 7.1 and 5.1 audio set up.

Wu Xing Trailers

     These trailers can be selected from the menu: Bruce Lee My Brother (2:39), The Lost Bladesman (1:05), Mulan (2:09) and 14 Blades (2:44).

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 a Region A Hong Kong release with both 3D and 2D versions of the film plus a number of extras including Cast and Crew interviews, behind the scenes, a making of, a second making of (short version) and 2 trailers. The feature has English subtitles listed, but I don’t know if they are available for the extras (I have a number of HK Blu-rays and some have subtitles for the extras, others don’t). This HK release only has the same audio as our release, DTS-HD MA 5.1, not the 7.1 of other martial arts releases coming out of HK. If the film itself is the interest, there is no reason to go past the local release.

     At this time there is no listing for releases of Flying Swords of Dragon Gate in either the US or UK.

Summary

     Flying Swords of Dragon Gate is an action tale of heroes, corrupt court officials, buried treasure, inventive martial arts, huge sets, CGI, a myriad of plot strands and a cast of thousands, including Jet Lee. Flying Swords of Dragon Gate is big, bold, opulent and entertaining.

     The video is fine, the audio excellent. The extras are only trailers for other films.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, July 03, 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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