Warriors of Heaven and Earth (Tian di Ying Xiong) (Blu-ray) (2003)
Main Menu Audio & Animation
|Year Of Production||2003|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Start Up||Ads Then Menu|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Ping He|
Sony Pictures Home Entertain
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (640Kb/s)
Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (640Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (640Kb/s)
English Linear PCM 48/16 5.1 (4608Kb/s)
English Linear PCM 48/16 5.1 (4608Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.40:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.40:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
It is the year 700. China is a troubled land and a dangerous place. Though the nation is led by the Tang dynasty, regional warlords and foreign powers threaten the nation's stability. Sir Lai Xi (Kiichi Nakai) has been in China for 25 years, sent from his homeland of Japan to study warfare and work as the Emperor sees fit. Lai Xi longs to return home and has been promised that he will get his wish if he completes one last mission - kill the rogue Lieutenant Li (Wen Jiang).
Lieutenant Li has been on the run for several years, wanted more for the embarrassment he had caused the Emperor than his deeds. Li and his men had deserted their post upon being ordered to kill a group of Turkish women and children they were holding prisoner. Their brazen desertion and years of avoiding capture had become an increasing frustration to the Emperor. In the years since the group had earned their way as mercenaries, mostly guarding caravans as they trek the dangerous trade routes about the land.
Lai Xi finds Li guarding one such caravan, though he is unusually dedicated to this caravan as they had rescued him while he was stranded in the desert. After a brief spar, the pair come to an agreement - they will not fight to the death until the caravan has safely reached the capital. The caravan is carrying religious scrolls at the command of the Emperor, so it is a mutually beneficial arrangement. Gathering Li's old brigade and Lai Xi's sidekick Wen Zhu (Zhao Wei), the caravan sets off.
Unfortunately for the caravan, and the man who wants to eventually kill it's guardian, Turkish bandits have heard rumour that something more important than mere scrolls is in the caravan and have hired the sadistic and narcissistic Master An (Xueqi Wang) to capture it. In a desperate attempt to avoid the bandits, the caravan heads across the Gobi desert - only to find more conflict than they had ever expected.
Warriors of Heaven and Earth is a fairly solid action movie with a good sense of humour. The story has a much lighter tone than most historical action action movies out of China since Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon set the bar. This certainly works in the movies' favour, making it hard to dislike even when the overabundance of characters starts to convolute the plot.
The action in the film tends towards being more realistic than its peers - well, as realistic as you can expect from a movie about half a dozen guys taking on an entire army. There is no flashy wire-work on display and CGI is pretty much limited to effects surrounding a supernatural aspect the story picks up late in the piece. Fast-cut sword fighting and basic acrobatics is all the movie really uses and certainly all it needs.
The cinematography is frequently stunning and makes a great example of the enhanced resolution of Blu-ray. There are plenty of wide shots of the stark desert and sand so fine that you can almost feel it grit your teeth.
Warriors of Heaven and Earth is a movie that most action fans will enjoy watching and promptly forget, but many of the individual shots in the film are likely to stay in memory for a while.
The film is presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio at a 1080p resolution. The film is certainly not the best looking Blu-ray you will find, but sets a very high bar for future catalogue releases.
For the most part the image is crystal clear and quite sharp. A handful of shots throughout the film are unusually soft, however, and feature flatter colours than the rest of the film. Take for example the wide shot of a caravan crossing the desert at 10:50, which is of noticeably poorer quality than the bulk of the film. These few shots don't spoil the movie, but do detract from the otherwise solid presentation.
There is a variable level of film grain in the picture, though it is rarely noticeable and never becomes particularly distracting. There is no sign of low-level noise.
Save for the handful of disappointing shots mentioned previously, the colour in the film is excellent. The palette is deep and tones are quite natural. There is an excellent level detail in blacks and shadows, far deeper and more subtle than is possible on a standard DVD.
There is no sign of compression artefacts in the video. A handful of minute film artefact specks appear throughout the course of the movie (I counted six all up), though only the pickiest viewers will notice as most appear in fades at the end of scenes.
Both plain English subtitles and English subtitles for the hearing impaired are available. Both streams appear to be well-written direct translations of the Chinese, rather than a transcription of the English dub, and are well timed.
The disc features an abundance of audio options and each track is of an excellent standard. Three Dolby Digital 5.1 (640Kbps) audio tracks are available, one in each of Mandarin, English and French. Two uncompressed 5.1 linear PCM tracks (4.6Mbps) are available, one in Mandarin and one in English. The Dolby Digital tracks are of an excellent standard. Anybody who is not yet equipped for uncompressed audio will have nothing to complain about. The uncompressed tracks sound magnificent and feature a stunning level of clarity, one that can be truly appreciated when compared to the compressed Dolby Digital.
Viewers are be highly recommended to stick with the Mandarin audio tracks. The English dub track is not too bad technically but the dub itself is pretty awful - the pace of the dialogue is lazy, even at point where it really shouldn't be, and the voices sound more like a parody of spaghetti westerns than feudal warriors.
The dialogue is crystal clear and well balanced in the mix. There are no sync issues with the Mandarin audio. The English dub is reasonably well timed to the lip motions of the characters, although this may well have contributed to the awkward flow of the dub.
The film features a beautiful score by A.R. Rahman, who is frequently dubbed "The John Williams of the Indian Film Industry". Incorporating both traditional Chinese instruments and modern orchestral instruments to a fairly contemporary composition, the score significantly enhances the narrative of the film. The mixing of the soundtrack presents the score particularly well.
The surround channels are fairly well used throughout the movie, particularly in the action scenes, but lack the subtlety that marks a truly excellent surround track. The subwoofer is presented with some great tones that support both the action scenes and the general story.
|Surround Channel Use|
The disc opens with a generic "coming soon to Blu-ray" trailer, featuring countless brief clips of a wide assortment of films played to obnoxious techno music, before presenting a stylish high definition menu.
Presented in a SD 1.85:1 aspect ratio and not 16x9 enhanced. A moderately interesting featurette about the making of the film, produced for Western audiences. Covering all the basics, such as location shooting, actors, costumes and sets, in an infomercial style, the featurette doesn't get into terribly technical detail on anything. This will appeal to casual viewers more than serious fans, but seems appropriate for a movie that sits squarely in the "good, but not essential" category.
Presented in a SD 1.85:1 aspect ratio and not 16x9 enhanced. This is a rather dull lead single from the film's soundtrack, presented with a generic clip that alternates between the singer slowly moving around and clips from the film.
This release is identical to the US Region A release.
An entertaining action movie with a good sense of humour, set in the desert of feudal China. The film features occasionally stunning, though a little inconsistent, cinematography that translates very well to the Blu-ray format.
Technically, this disc sets a high bar for future older catalogue titles released on Blu-ray. The video is very good. Though not the best high definition transfer you will find, it does feature plenty of wide and deep shots that show off the benefit of the 1080p resolution. There are an abundance of audio tracks for the film on this disc and each is of a very high standard, although voices in the English dub miss the mark by a wide berth.
The extras are quite limited, but of a decent standard. It is a shame they are only presented in standard definition.
|DVD||Sony Playstation 3, using HDMI output|
|Display||Samsung 116cm LA46M81BD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).|
|Audio Decoder||Pioneer VSX2016AVS. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||150W DTX front speakers, and a 100W centre and 2 surrounds, 12 inch PSB Image 6i powered sub|