Plot: What’s it about?
General Kuan was one of the highest ranking military officials in the Ming dynasty, but even his forces had trouble containing a Manchurian invasion. As the outsiders attacked and tried to overtake China’s lands & people, Kuan and his men battled back as hard as they could, but most of them were slain in the fights. Of course, both sides were dealt severe losses as the war waged on between them, but sadly, Kuan was one of those killed in the conflict. His son Shao Lung (Carter Huang) managed to survive the onslaught however, taking shelter in a Shaolin Temple, where he can make good use of his time, skills, and emotions. While inside the temple, Shao Lung begins to hone his martial arts techniques with the monks, who are able to teach him to use his body, but also his mind and soul, to overcome his obstacles. After twenty years of intense training, Shao Lung is deemed ready to go back into the world and of course, he wishes to settle the score. As he hunts down the man who killed his father, will he able to find solace in revenge, or will his heart still be just as wounded from the immense loss?
This movie will no doubt spark the interest of old school martial arts cinema fans, but don’t expect traditional elements here, as The 18 Bronzemen is more of a surreal, often nonsensical journey into the Shaolin realm. I mean, we have a solid enough basic premise, but maybe something gets lost in the subtitles, as it can be hard to follow the plotline at times, although I suspect subtle touches are left out, in favor of overall entertainment value. No harm in that, after all this kind of movie was made to make us have a good time and as such, I see no reason to pan it simply because it makes no sense at times. The litmus test with a flick like The 18 Bronzemen is fun and if you ask me, it offers kung-fu fans a lot of that and that’s enough to keep me pleased. As cool as the fabled bronze warriors are, the fight scenes lack the dynamic presence I would have liked, but remain more than acceptable, to be sure. The film has some nice fight scenes, wonderful visuals, a terrific score, and an intangible texture that makes it work just well enough. Is this a martial arts classic? No, but genre fans should check it out, as it is a lot of fun to take in.
Video: How does it look?
The 18 Bronzemen is presented in a 2.35:1 widescreen transfer, which is not enhanced for widescreen televisions. As with most Asian films, little care was taken with the source materials of this film and it shows, but the print used here looks clean enough, all things considered. I saw little in the way of nicks or other wear marks really, which came as a surprise, but a most welcome one, to be sure. The image is soft and looks a shade worn at times, but the main flaws come from the lack of anamorphic enhancement. This leaves us with shimmering, jagged edges, and when viewed on a larger screen, a less than stellar overall image. But I still think this is a solid visual effort, though some extra attention could have made it much better.
Audio: How does it sound?
The included Mandarin language track is more than acceptable, especially when you consider how miserable previous English dub editions have been. As expected, time and lack of proper care techniques have caused some problems, but I was never too let down here, especially given the material involved. It can be a little shrill and overly loud at times, but remains stable most of the time, so no serious complaints. This disc also includes subtitles in English and Chinese (both simplified & traditional), should you need those. The subtitles appear in the lower portion of the black bars however, so widescreen television owners who like to zoom in will be left out in the cold, unless they speak Mandarin, that is.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes some talent files, but no other bonus materials.