Moon Warriors (Zhan shen chuan shuo) (1993)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 15-Dec-2005

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Martial Arts Introduction-Bey Logan - Hong Kong film expert
Audio Commentary-Bey Logan, Mabel Cheung (Producer) And Alex Law (Writer)
Interviews-Crew-Dynamic Duo - Mabel Cheung And Alex Law
Interviews-Crew-The Colour Of Truth - Arthur Wong (Cinematographer)
Featurette-A Tribute To Anita Mui
Theatrical Trailer- 2
Trailer-Hong Kong Legends
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1993
Running Time 83:17
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Sammo Hung
Studio
Distributor
Team Work
Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Andy Lau
Kenny Bee
Anita Mui
Maggie Cheung
Kelvin Wong
Chang Yi
Case ?
RPI $29.95 Music James Wong


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    With one director, two action directors, two drama directors and a main star who was on set for 2 days only, Moon Warriors could have been a disorganised mess. Instead it is something quite special; a surprisingly poignant, moving and romantic fantasy wuxia film with appealing leads, inventive action sequences, a killer whale and stunning cinematography. Moon Warriors is the film to introduce doubting friends and partners to the romance of Hong Kong martial arts cinema.

    Moon Warriors starts with a burning palace as Emperor Yen Ling (Kenny Bee) and his supporters, including the beautiful Hsien (Maggie Chen), flee from a coup staged by the evil 14th Prince (Kelvin Wong). The fugitives are ambushed in a bamboo grove but are helped by a simple fisherman named Fei (Andy Lau). He does not know the identity of the fugitives but takes them to his village to recover from their wounds. As the 14th Prince's forces search nearby, Fei takes the exiles to a tomb hidden beneath a cliff. This just happens to be the tomb of Yen's ancestors which is how Fei discovers the true identity of his guests.

    To try to regain his throne Yen sends Fei and Hsien to an adjoining kingdom to cement an alliance with the ruler and to fetch Yen's betrothed, the princess Yuet (Anita Mui). They are almost too late; assassins attack the kingdom as they arrive but covered by Hsien, Fei and Yuet escape. On their journey back to Yen, Fei and Yuet face attackers, get lost in a forest of thorns and are ambushed by a ninja. Yet, even more dangerous is the affection that starts to form between them. Back at his village Fei the commoner must stand aside and watch as Yen & Yuet are reunited. Also watching is Hsien, who has an agenda of her own. When the Emperor is betrayed and the 14th Prince and his army attack the village, all concerned must make life and death decisions about where their allegiances and loyalties truly lie.

    Moon Warriors had 5 directors: main director Sammo Hung, action directors Ching Siu-tung and Corey Yuen and drama directors Mabel Cheung and Alex Law, so it is a credit to all that the film is not a total mess. Instead it is something quite special and, for a wuxia film, touchingly romantic. As Fei, Andy Lau is wonderful. He has obvious screen charisma and his Fei has just the right mix of larrikin, naiveté, confusion and bravado. His scenes with Anita Mui on their journey as their feelings evolve are funny and sweet, although on occasion the film does verge on the saccharine. Imagine a field of flowers, a baby white rabbit and a corny Chinese love song on the soundtrack (it is translated by the subtitles) and you get the idea. Kenny Bee does what is required, but the wonderful Maggie Chen is pretty much wasted. As one of the features discloses, she was on set for only 2 days to film all her close-ups and this clearly affects her performance; all the long shots were doubles and some very obviously are not her!

    While romantic, this is indeed an wuxia action film and the action sequences are very impressive. Ching Siu-tung was the fight choreographer on films such as New Dragon Gate Inn (1992), Hero (2002) and House of Flying Daggers (2004) and his work here is frenetic and varied. Indeed the sequence in Moon Warriors in the bamboo forest is very much a practice run for a similar sequence in House of Flying Daggers. If you have seen and enjoyed Ching's work on any of those later films you know what to expect from the action sequences in Moon Warriors.

     Moon Warriors is a wuxia film with pretensions to being something more romantic and epic. The sets are spectacular, the action furious and inventive, the colours and cinematography stunning but what sets Moon Warriors apart from other Hong Kong action films is the underlying feeling of melancholy and the themes of impossible love, loyalty and truth that pervade the film.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    Visual presentation is an 16x9 enhanced widescreen print in a ratio of 1.78:1, slightly cropped from the original theatrical release ratio of 1.85:1. Moon Warriors is a triumph for cinematographer Arthur Wong (Once Upon A Time in China), (New Dragon Gate Inn). It is a wonderfully framed and colourful film and the presentation here does it full justice. Moon Warriors features a number of slow vista shots; sunrise over the village, a field of flowers, warriors framed by the full moon (which was a real shot, not fake CGI), all rendered in clear and glorious colours, with browns and greens predominating. Brightness levels are fine, skin tones accurate, the blacks solid and shadow detail precise. The night sequence with the village and lights reflecting on the water (54:15-54:26) has all the clarity one could want. Faults are minimal. There is some slight shimmering in the leaves of a forest around the 27 minute mark and some of the daylight scenes from 47:09 could have had better clarity. Otherwise, a great print.

    Lip Sync is better than in many Hong Kong films but is still pretty approximate. The English subtitles are in a clean, easily read white text that appear timely and contain no obvious grammatical errors.

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

Audio

    The DVD offers Cantonese 5.1 (384 Kbps) and English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448 Kbps), which really should be the other way around. However, neither is a particularly vibrant 5.1 mix. Both are front oriented with only minor music cues and ambience directed to the surrounds and no discernable sub woofer use. Yet it is still a reasonable audio track - vocals are clear, the clashing of swords and swishing of bamboo effectively rendered.

    The music is a esoteric mixture. It varies between Eastern flutes, corny Chinese modern pop songs (which the subtitles translate) and very Morricone sounding brass and effects that might have been lifted straight from the "Dollars" trilogy. While occasionally over the top, the music generally enhances the film experience.

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

Extras

Introduction: Bey Logan (4:21)

Although nowhere advertised, before the film Bey Logan provides an introduction to Moon Warriors and its place in wuxia cinema.

Audio Commentary by Bey Logan, Mabel Cheung & Alex Law

Hong Kong film expert Bey Logan prompts the remembrances of writer Alex Law and producer Magel Cheung. They talk non stop and this is a chatty, informative and interesting commentary track. Among other things, they identify locations, discuss the different styles of each action director and say who was responsible for which scene, outline where various crew or cast members are now and tell how Andy Lau got friendly with the Killer Whale. Well worth a listen.

Dynamic Duo: An Interview with Producer Mabel Cheung and writer Alex Law (18:50)

Alex Law and Mabel Cheung speak in English about their memories of Moon Warriors. They discuss the various actors, the scripting, the look of the film and the problems of making a film with 5 directors. This interview is diverting enough, although light on information and it does include extensive clips from the film that extend the time unnecessarily.

The Colour of Truth: An Interview with Cinematographer Arthur Wong (24:20)

Arthur Wong was the cinematographer on films such as Once Upon A Time in China, Iron Monkey, New Dragon Gate Inn and Crime Story. He is an engaging speaker and talks in English about working with Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung, lighting Moon Warriors, underwater photography in a swimming pool, framing the full moon in scenes, compositing scenes and how to film an action sequence to hide the wires. This is an interesting and informative feature, one of the best of its type I have heard.

A Tribute to Anita Mui (11:10)

Bey Logan and singer / actress Helena Ma reminisce about Anita Mui who died in 2003. Logan calls Mui the "Madonna of Asia" but if you want to find out about her life and work, this is not the place.

Theatrical Trailers

The UK Promotional Trailer (2:13) and Original Theatrical Trailer (3:32) for Moon Warriors.

Further Attractions

Trailers for other films in the Hong Kong Legends series. A text screen details the DVD specifications and special features before the trailer. All trailers are in excellent condition. Included is Skinny Tiger, Fatty Dragon (1.42 min), The Postman Fights Back (1.38 min), Game of Death 2 (1.12 min), Crime Story (1.40 min) and Scorpion King (1.45 min). All are presented with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound and an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, except for Game of Death 2 which is 2.55:1.

Easter Egg

Bey Logan breaks a chopstick in an unusual way (0:55).

R4 vs R1

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

    Moon Warriors was released on DVD in Region 1 in 2003; it has trailers & biographies, an alternative ending and a different commentary. However, it is non-anamorphic - a win to Region 4.

Summary

    Moon Warriors is a wuxia film that is something special. The sets are spectacular, the action furious and inventive, the colours and cinematography stunning but what sets Moon Warriors apart from other Hong Kong action films is the underlying feeling of melancholy and the themes of impossible love, loyalty and truth that pervade the film. Moon Warriors is the film to introduce doubting friends and partners to the romance that is Hong Kong wuxia cinema.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42inch Hi-Def 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

Other Reviews
The DVD Bits - Ray N (the bio is the thing)

Comments (Add) NONE