The Dragon Chronicles: The Maidens of Heavenly Mountains

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

This film has one of the most complex storylines I’ve ever seen, so if my synopsis seems a little incoherent, just wait until you see the movie itself. Siu Yiu Tze is an all powerful, all knowing martial arts master, one such as the world has never seen before. In addition to his mastery of the martial arts, he also holds possession of great wealth and lands, so his position is one sought by many others, to say the least. Chong Hoi and Chou Shui (both played by Brigitte Lin) are demi-goddesses and students of the master, but they seek to take control of his holdings, as well as his masterful martial arts skills. But other demi-goddesses also wish to overtake his place, which means Siu Yiu Tze has a place in the world many want, but obviously, only he or one other can attain and that means most will fail in their attempts. But when he is poisoned by Master Ting, Siu Yiu Tze retreats his spiritual realm where he is safe from the physical world. As the poison begins to take hold, he decides to crown a successor and soon, but the chosen one must win a game of supernatural chess, which will be no simple task. Who of the contenders will be able to succeed and then, how will the awesome powers be used?

This is not your typical martial arts film, but it is a terrific movie that’s a lot of fun, if you’re into this kind of cinema. You won’t see much in the way of traditional kung fu action, as this film takes a more supernatural, mystical approach. This means lots of wizards, magical moments, superhuman feats, and supernatural excitement, which I happen to enjoy immensely, but I know some don’t like this kind of picture. The story is good, but starts off very hard to follow in terms of premise and then gets even more complex as the details surface, especially in terms of character relationships, which are put through the paces here, without question. You’ll see some nice character work here as a result, as some take roads to become better, others for the worse, and of course, that equals some nice turns that keep things active, which is good here. The nature of the film is a little on the light side and as I mentioned, these supernatural style martial arts movies aren’t for everyone, but I found The Dragon Chronicles: The Maidens of Heavenly Mountains (also known as Semi-Gods & Semi-Devils) to be a fun, well crafted picture. So if you’re a fan of supernatural kung fu with some great visuals & character work, give this one a rental and judge for yourself.

I was first drawn to this film by the presence of Brigitte Lin, who has some terrific performances to her credit, in addition to her beautiful features, of course. She has made a number of pictures in this genre, so she seems at home with the over the top special effects and crowded storyline, which helps her performance more than a little. I think if someone were just thrown in this, they might stumble at times, but Lin remains great throughout, even though she has to take on two roles within the picture. Her efforts are somewhat lost at times due to the insane things around her, but I still think she hangs tough and gives a memorable, enjoyable turn here and of course, she’s as lovely as ever, which is an ace in her favor. Other films with Lin include Deadful Melody, The Bride with White Hair, Chungking Express, Ashes of Time, and Dragon Inn. The cast also includes Gong Li (The Emperor & The Assassin, Farewell My Concubine), Norman Chu (King of Beggars, The Liquid Sword), and Cheung Man (God of Gamblers, Casino Raiders).

Video: How does it look?

The Dragon Chronicles: The Maidens of Heavenly Mountains is presented in a 1.85:1 widescreen transfer, which is not enhanced for widescreen televisions. This seems to be a port of the laserdisc edition and while it looks good, a newly created version would have been a vast improvement, without a doubt. The print has some specks & nicks and you’ll see some shimmering, but the image looks stable, which is not bad, all things considered. The colors come through as intended, not as vivid as you might want, but that’s how it should be, so don’t adjust your color levels on this one. As with most Asian films, the transfer won’t dazzle your eyes, but it gets the job done and that should please fans.

Audio: How does it sound?

This release holds Dolby Digital 5.1 surround options in Cantonese & Mandarin language tracks, with English subtitles also included. I do want to mention that the subtitles often push off the screen in really long sentences, but you can catch all the dialogue most of the time, so no serious complaints there. The audio is quite good however, with a lot more power and depth than expected, especially in terms of the rear channels. This movie has frequent scenes of action and high impact audio, all of which comes through very well here, with active surrounds and some wonderful use of the front soundscape also, a terrific overall audio option. Not up to the standards of big budget Hollywood action movies perhaps, but the audio is much better than I had expected, so I am marking this one with a solid score.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This disc contains no bonus materials.

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