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April 7, 2008
Warriors of Heaven and Earth Blu-Ray Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
23/9/20032/4/2008Sony PicturesPing He
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
MPEG-2English/Chinese PCM5.1 4.6MbpsMJiang Wen

To a lot of people Asian cinema has only just exploded into Western countries. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was the movie that pushed a thriving Asian movie industry into the minds of millions. Since that movies release in early 2001 we have seen numerous other Asian movies which, in the past, would typically have been relegated to video release make cinematic appearances. Hero, Fearless, Kung Fu Hustle and House of Flying Daggers have all taken impressive numbers at the Box Office. While Warriors of Heaven and Earth was briefly released in cinemas it's run was short lived, but the movie has found an audience on DVD, and now Blu-Ray.

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Might be time to surrender!
Set in the ferocious Gobi Desert, the story follows two protagonists, Lieutenant Li (Jiang Wen) and Japanese emissary Lai Xi (Nakai Kiichi) - both first-class warriors and master swordsmen. After decades of service to the Chinese Emperor Lai Xi is sent to the West to chase and execute wanted criminals including Lieutenant Li, a renegade soldier wanted for leading a violent mutiny when he refused orders to kill female and child prisoners.

Li and Lai Xi battle, but finally agree to delay their final personal fight until the caravan carrying Wen Zhu and a Buddhist monk is brought to safety. The monk, however, is carrying a sacred and powerful pagoda that attracts the attention of the region's ruthless overlord, Master An (Wang Xueqi). Lai Xi and Lt. Li, accompanied by Li's former posse of soldiers, who have forsaken their peaceful new lives to return to his side, must face the cruelty of the desert, the region's barbaric bandits and the brutality of the overlord's men before they can finally face one another.

Warriors of Heaven and Earth starts out rather slowly as we are introduced to a series of characters and sequences that lead up to the events of the movie. That's not a bad thing as it certainly spells out the reason for each characters motives, and their emotional journey in the lead up to that point in time. After the first hour or so though the pace definitely picks up, and the second half of the movie is quite an enjoyable action adventure romp. When the action starts up it's relentless and engrossing, particularly the finale - even with a somewhat questionable conclusion. Acting, directing, cinematography and editing are impressive and if you like Asian cinema then you'll certainly get quite a bit of enjoyment out of this movie.

With a great attention to detail, some brilliant location and set design, and exciting action sequences this is a movie we wholeheartedly recommend, especially to fans of Asian cinema.

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Fight scenes are quite entertaining.

Encoded in 1080p using the MPEG-2 codec in the films original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 this is a very solid transfer, certainly exceeding our expectations from the disc. As with many movies filmed in Asia the original source material isn't as pristine as the highly processed movies from Hollywood. It is fair to say though that while this transfer exhibits some grain and occasional dirt, it is certainly much less then we have become accustomed to from most Asian movies. .

Colours are vibrant, and detail is quite superb in both foreground and background objects, even in the blandness of the Gobi desert. The fast moving scenes are handled well and there isn't any visible form of compression artifacting. Indeed if we see several other 'big' Asian movies such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Police Story and Hero given the same lavish treatment we will be most impressed.

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Fires at night look quite stunning.

Sony Pictures have really gone to town with this release in terms of audio. The disc has both English and Chinese soundtracks, and both come in two formats - Dolby Digital 5.1 at 640kbps and Linear PCM 5.1 at 4.6Mbps - the latter of which is certainly the preferred option. The DVD release of this disc includes Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks at 448kbps - and the improvements on the Blu-Ray transfer are quite evident from direct comparisons.

I must say that if you are going to watch this movie please do so with the Mandarin soundtrack which is vastly superior to the English track - not technically, but certainly in terms of retaining the 'vibe' of the movie. While the dubbing is generally acceptable good, the lip synching isn't perfect and can be a distraction.

The only other language provided on this disc is a French Dolby Digital 5.1 track at 640kbps which is equal in quality to the English and Chinese tracks. Subtitles on the disc include English and English SDH as well as French, Dutch, Arabic, Czech, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Polish, and Turkish.

Sadly this disc doesn't have much in the way of extras. The 2005 DVD release is equally sparse with the only extra missing on this Blu-Ray release being the Theatrical trailer for the movie.

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Director Ping He with cast on set.
Making of Warriors of Heaven and Earth (25:13/HD): Despite its length this isn't the best featurette we've ever seen. Interviews with the cast and crew are present, but it also shows quite a few clips from the movie and comes across as a promotional piece. Despite being presented in Standard Definition this MPEG-2 encoded feature has a bitrate above that of standard DVD and often approaches 15Mbps.

Music Video Warriors Of Peace By Jolin Tsai (4:34/HD): A Chinese video clip from the movie presented in Standard Definition, but with a bitrate in the 12-15Mbps range with 192kbps Dolby Digital 2 channel audio. Not a bad clip actually although there are no English subtitles so I have no idea what Jolin is singing about.

Coming to Blu-Ray Trailer (1:13/HD): The standard promotional trailer from Sony Pictures - do you think we could actually get this updated one day folks?

Warriors of Heaven and Earth isn't the best Asian movie ever released, but it's a damn sight better then a lot of the other crap that gets released in cinemas these days. This Blu-Ray transfer is quite impressive and while the extras are quite light on this is still well worth a look.

Review By: Dave Warner


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