Hero (Blu-ray)

January 28, 2012 6 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Qin (Daoming Chin) rules over all of China, in a time when the first Emperor had yet to take the throne. He isn’t the sole ruler, as each of the seven kingdoms has one, but he is the most powerful of the lot. Thanks to his position and the desire from others to seize his power, his life is always in danger. He is faced with assassins on a regular basis, some more dangerous than others. But three stand above the crowd as the most lethal, the ones who pose the gravest threat to Qin’s position. These three assassins are known as Broken Sword, Sky, and Flying Snow. Qin has wanted them eliminated for some time, but even his most skilled warriors have unable to do so. So he is shocked when a nameless warrior (Jet Li) approaches his throne and reports that the three have been dispatched, by this lone swordsman. As he is thrilled with the news, he invites the warrior in a private audience, so that he can learn how this incredible deed was done. But is his story the complete truth, or does someone else have a version of their own?

This movie was a smash success across the world, with sizable box office production, audience approval, and even critical praise. Even Oscar and Golden Globe nominated poured in, not to mention over fifty million dollars at the U.S. box office, no small feat for a foreign picture. But here in America, Hero still given its proper due and perhaps now on home video, the film can be discovered on a grand scale. As expected, Miramax marketed Hero as an action movie, with martial arts mayhem and with Jet Li in the lead, that was a sound approach, since U.S. audiences knew some of his previous work. And yes, Hero does have some incredible fight sequences, but to call it an action movie is a serious understatement. The film takes excellent fight scenes, mixes in well crafted drama, adds a drop or two of romance, then sets those elements on the stage of an historical epic. That means stunning visuals, detailed locations, and beautiful costumes. Not as shallow as Gladiator or Troy however, as Hero is a true epic in all regards. Most films that aim at epic proportions tend to focus more on production values, leaving the story and characters left behind. But in Hero, no such disappointments surface and the result is an actual epic, one few could dislike. Li is superb in the lead, while his costars such as Donnie Yen, Tony Leung, Zhang Ziyi, and Maggie Cheung are in top form as well. This Blu-ray doesn’t fulfill all its potential, but it is a solid release for fans of the film.

Video: How does it look?

Hero is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This transfer looks good, quite good in fact, but it isn’t on the same level as the format’s top releases. The detail is soft overall, but still offers more depth than the DVD. So when I say soft, I mean soft for high definition, so there’s still plenty of detail here. I think the colors are much improved as well, with warmer and richer hues that add a lot to the presentation. The contrast is dead on too, so no worries there. All in all, this looks better than the DVD, but don’t expect an eye popping treatment.

Audio: How does it sound?

In a move sure to disappoint fans, Miramax has given the original Cantonese soundtrack a Dolby Digital 5.1 option, while the English dub gets a DTS HD 5.1 track. So in other words, the proper audio presentation sounds just like the DVD and really, that is inexcusable. Even so, as far as lossy tracks go, this one is pretty good. The surrounds pulse throughout the movie, with high points whenever the action heats up. This isn’t just loud either, as the surround presence is well crafted and really enhances the experience. Even calmer scenes have great background noise, which gives the scenes a more natural presence. No troubles with dialogue either, as the vocals are clean and crisp, with no muffled tones or other mishaps. So a solid soundtrack, but a lossless option could have done so much more. This disc also includes French and Spanish language tracks, as well as subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This release includes an interview with Jet Li, a half hour behind the scenes featurette, and a selection of the film’s storyboards. A second disc houses a digital copy, for use on portable devices.

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