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March 5, 2012
The Sorcerer and the White Snake
Blu-Ray Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
28/9/2011 (China)22/2/2012Icon FilmsSiu-Tung Ching
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1MJet Li
Eva Huang

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Visual effects in The Sorcerer and the White Snake can impress.

For many years I've been a fan of Asian cinema - it started well before Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon smashed into cinemas worldwide in 2000. Not only do Asian films have some of the best martial arts scenes ever put to celluloid, but the films offer unique, rarely seen locations, and often a different take on life. One of the biggest movie stars in Asia is Jet Li (who has also appeared in American films such as Lethal Weapon 4, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor and The Expendables among others) and any new release generates considerable interest. Released theatrically in 2011 The Sorcerer and the White Snake is Jet Li's latest (Asian) movie and is based on a Chinese legend.

When the evil spirit White Snake (Eva Huang) falls in love with a young man, (Raymond Lam) she transforms herself into a beautiful lady. With their intense romance pushing the cosmos towards doom, sorcerer Fa Hai (Jet Li) must vanquish White Snake from the world and destroy her love forever.

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Jet Li fighting some demons.
Prior to kicking off this disc I had little knowledge of this film other than having seen a few positive words on various online websites - although I must say I've also seen plenty of negative reviews, primarily from non-Asian reviewers. After a somewhat confusing and visually disappointing initial battle (not least of which being due to trying to read white subtitles on snow!) the movie soon settles into something very different, very unique, occasionally amusing and very much worth viewing. The two female demon snakes, played by Eva Huang and Wen Zhang, are simply mesmorising in their performances, and it's clear to see why the character Xu Xian is infatuated with the White Snake (albeit in human form). Unfortunately while the love story is present, it never really reaches the potential which the story carries.

In terms of the action sequences The Sorcerer and the White Snake has plenty of fighting, with much of this using magic and massive set pieces. There is plenty of wire work in this film too and while it's often over the top it's never short of thrilling.

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Eva Huang and Wen Zhang as the demon snakes.
Our biggest criticism of this film has to do with the visual effects. Without doubt many of the scenes in this film have stunning visual effects which would fit right into the biggest Hollywood blockbuster. There are some other scenes however, including certain shots within the opening sequence, and the end sequences, when some of the visual effects simply aren't up to par and look quite rough and unfinished.

If you like Asian cinema and martial arts films then we strongly suggest you check this film out. At times amusing, at times action packed, at times dramatic this is a film that impresses on many levels. We didn't know what to expect, but very much enjoyed the final product.

The video quality in The Sorcerer and the White Snake varies from absolutely stunning to rather disappointing - however much of this disappointment comes from the variance in the visual effects quality which range from top-of-the-line Hollywood blockbuster quality to rather poor blue screening. Disappointing too is the fact that Icon Films have seen fit to crop the image from it's original 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio to a screen filling 1.78:1 ratio. Not only that but (we believe) this film was released in China in 3D, however that is not the case on this disc.

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Jet Li fighting Eva Huang.
Having said all that The Sorcerer and the White Snake is still a very nice looking Blu-Ray with China's stunning scenery present throughout many scenes, and the video bitrate remaining high enough to given the visuals a sharp, detailed look with excellent colour reproduction and contrast levels.

The Sorcerer and the White Snake is presented on Blu-Ray with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (16-bit/48Khz) track that really sounds fantastic. While I don't speak Chinese (well I understand the odd word) the dialogue in this film sounded wonderfully clear while the films sound design is lively with wonderful music and ample use of surround sound and sub- woofer channels.

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The love story in The Sorcerer and the White Snake never quite lives up to potential.
Sadly one of our biggest issues with this disc is the subtitles. We can't recall enough Chinese to confirm the accuracy of the translation, however the subtitles on this disc are rather small and being white, often get lost in the image in lighter scenes which in the opening snow-filled scenes is a major issue.

Compounding the issue though is the fact that the subtitles occasionally don't remain on the screen long enough to read them - even when there isn't fast flowing dialogue. Those with vision problems will likely have problems reading the subtitles.

Sadly there are no extras on this disc related to the film itself which is a shame given the budget, visual effects and actors involved. What we do have are some trailers...

Trailers (8:34/HD): There are several trailers on this disc including Bruce Lee My Brother (2:39), The Lost Bladesmen (1:04), Mulan (2:08), and 14 Blades (2:43). All these films should be of interest to fans of Asian cinema.

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Yes, the green snake sure is sexy!
DTS 5.1 and DTS 7.1 Sound Checks (HD): A nice little feature so you can check the audio on your surround sound is configured correctly.

The Sorcerer and the White Snake surely isn't going to be a movie for everyone, but we here at Futuregamez had a blast with this fantasy film. A solid transfer, even with incorrect aspect ratio, makes this well worth checking out.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Icon Films. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.