Warriors of Heaven and Earth (Tian di Ying Xiong) (2003)

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Released 4-Jan-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Dolby Digital Trailer
Featurette-Making Of
Music Video-'Warriors Of Peace' By Jolin Tsai
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Anacondas: The Hunt For The Blood Orchid
Trailer-Bobby Jones: Stroke Of Genius
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 114:56
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (70:30) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Ping He

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring KÓchi Nakai
Xueqi Wang
Bagen Hasi
Vicki Zhao
Tao Ho
Linian Lu
Deshun Wang
Yeerjiang Mahepushen
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music A.R. Rahman

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Chinese Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

††† When one of his comrades refuses an order to kill some Turkish prisoners, Li Zai (Jiang Wen), a lieutenant in the army of the Tang Emperor, intervenes to prevent his summary execution by Imperial soldiers. As a result, "Butcher" Li as he is known is forced to become an outlaw running from justice, together with a few comrades who side with him. The Emperor despatches the long-time Japanese emissary Lai Xi (Kiichi Nakai) to kill the rebels, promising him that once this is accomplished he will be allowed to return to his native country. Ten years pass and Xi finally catches up with Butcher Li, but the latter is accompanying a caravan transporting a Buddhist monk and some scrolls to a temple, and Xi agrees to postpone their duel until this sacred duty is fulfilled. But their progress is interrupted by some bandits seeking the hidden treasure that the monk possesses.

††† This is a big-budget epic set during the Tang dynasty (618 - 907 AD), filmed in stunning locations and with a lot of fight scenes. It appears to have been made with an eye to international audiences, the presence of Japanese star Nakai being just one element of this. The story is less convoluted than many Chinese epics - there is much less of the impossible assisted acrobatics that mar a lot of this genre (though there is some wire work) and the script does not assume prior knowledge of the era. The film also borrows from foreign films, with the ending right out of a Spielberg film of the 1980s, a brief reference to The Three Musketeers and some obvious influences of Japanese martial arts films (as well as Star Wars). It also feels like a western at times.

††† The early scenes are a little confusing, as things happen with rapidity and it becomes hard to follow. After a while though the pace settles down and the story becomes easier to digest. The battle scenes are shot in close-up and with rapid cutting, which seems to be the modern alternative to decent fight choreography: much of it looks chaotic and it is difficult to tell what's happening. The disappointing aspect of the story is the fantasy element which rears its ugly head about halfway through, resulting in some slightly cheesy CGI work.

††† The performances are very good, particularly by the two leads. The major disappointment was the sole female star Vicky Zhao Wei (A Chinese Odyssey 2002, Shaolin Soccer), who despite narrating the film seems to be there for purely decorative reasons only. Not that she isn't decorative, but more could have been made of her character and talent. Wang Xueqi is excellent as the dreadlocked bad guy, resisting the temptation to ham it up Hollywood-style in favour of a more subdued (and therefore more sinister) villainy.

††† The film is well directed by He Ping, this being his first film in eight years. His Red Firecracker, Green Firecracker would be familiar to Western audiences, as might Swordsman in Double-Flag Town and Sun Valley. The real star is the extraordinary scenery, beautifully photographed by Zhao Fei, varying from lush countryside to stark desert settings. A good if not quite great epic, this is well worth seeing.

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Transfer Quality


††† The film is transferred to DVD in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

††† At first, the transfer seems superb, but closer inspection reveals some flaws. While the transfer is very sharp with a lot of detail apparent, the sharpness is achieved with some edge enhancement. This is usually only visible when the characters are seen against the sky (which is often), but when it is visible it is quite noticeable. Viewers with projectors or large rear projection displays may find this annoying.

††† Contrast levels are fine, and while some shadows seem impenetrable, making detail non-existent, I suspect this is how the film originally looked. Colour is excellent, with vivid primary colours and no evidence of over-saturation or colour bleeding. Blacks are solid and clean with no evidence of low level noise. Whites are pure as well.

††† There is a bit of aliasing during the film, such as on the side of the building at 24:28. Some curved edges appear jagged, and occasionally this badly affects the detail. Try pausing the film at 25:19, where the outline of Li's ears are just a few vertical lines. There also appears to be some minor Gibb Effect.

††† Film artefacts are limited to small specks of dirt, which occur throughout the running time but which are only distracting on one or two occasions.

††† Optional English subtitles are available. It should be noted that they default to being off. They are in a clear white font and are well-timed. They match the English soundtrack very well, though whether they are a close translation of the original language is not known to me. They are obviously written for an American audience, but there were only a couple of jarring lines that seemed out of place.

††† This is an RSDL-formatted disc with the layer change at 70:30, during a scene but at a cut. It is mildly disruptive.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


††† The default audio track is the English dubbing of the film, in Dolby Digital 5.1. The original Chinese audio, also Dolby Digital 5.1, is available, and I listened to this one for the duration of the film. Later, I sampled the English dubbing, or perhaps it should be referred to as the American soundtrack. The voice acting on this track is dull and lacklustre, with the actors not putting much effort into bringing the characters alive. Needless to say, the audio sync is atrocious.

††† The Chinese audio track is excellent. The centre channel dialogue seems a little recessed in relation to the surrounds, but this is also the case in all of the alternative audio languages. Otherwise, I did not detect any issues with the audio. Synchronisation of the dialogue is perfect. The surround mix is very intense, with lots of rear channel and low frequency effects. The fight sequences come alive with the loud effects and rumblings, for example the approach of the army horses during the climactic battle. I was quite impressed with the audio, though it should be noted that it has been a while since I reviewed a recent cinema release. As a point of interest, the post-production on the sound (and on the film itself) was done in Australia, so you see a few Anglo names in the end credits.

††† The music score is by Indian composer A. R. Rahman. It is performed by a Czech orchestra and was recorded in England. As you would guess, it is not entirely authentic and does sound a bit strange in this type of film. There seems to be an almost Middle-Eastern influence to it. Despite these apparent handicaps, the score is very good indeed and suits the film very well. There are some quieter moments with traditional Chinese instruments, and there is a lot of percussion, which will give your speakers a workout.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Dolby Digital Trailer (0:35)

††† A simple trailer with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.

Featurette-Making Of (25:13)

††† A puff-piece narrated by an American voice and sounding like it was written by the same person who writes the US trailers for films: "A man with no future...meets a woman with no past...and together they make history". That quote isn't from this featurette (but it could have been), which includes clips from the film, an interview with the director and some behind-the-scenes footage.

Music Video-'Warriors Of Peace' By Jolin Tsai (4:34)

††† Canto-pop diva Jolin Tsai sings the theme song in this music clip. Only burned-in Chinese subtitles are provided.

Theatrical Trailer (1:04)

††† A nice trailer with no narration, in widescreen but letterboxed.

Trailer-Anacondas: The Hunt For The Blood Orchid; Bobby Jones: Stroke Of Genius (4:14)

††† Standard trailers for these forthcoming releases, both 16x9 enhanced.

R4 vs R1

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

††† There is a Region 3 disc emanating from China. This is missing the extras available in Region 4 but otherwise it sounds like it has similar transfer.

††† The Region 1 and Region 2 releases seem to be identical to the Region 4.


††† An enjoyable Chinese epic, though it seems a little homogenized.

††† The video quality is good despite the presence of edge enhancement.

††† The audio quality is excellent.

††† The extras are welcome but not exceptional.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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About A.R. Rahman and his music -