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Hero (Special Edition) (2002) Print E-mail
Tuesday, 15 September 2009
Image"Hero" is another martial arts film being released by Buena Vista as part of the Ultimate Force of Four Collection.  Two of the four films are presented in the United States by Quentin Tarantino.  "Hero" is one, and the other is "Iron Monkey."  Many film critics hold "Hero" in high regard.  However, there is a big line between enjoyment for film critics and enjoyment for filmgoers.

The film stars Jet Li as a master swordsman.  Jet Li is better known for some of his American movies such as "Lethal Weapon 4" and "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor."  However, Tarantino felt the need to present this foreign martial arts film to American audiences.  And most are glad that he did.

The film came to the US in 2002 and was nominated for Oscars and Golden Globes.  Fans of martial arts films will find some incredible action sequences in this film.  However, it is not as action-packed as you might think.  "Hero" is one of the few martial arts films that have a dramatic story.  This is a martial arts film that chooses to be based on revenge.  However, unlike most martial arts films, there is mystery.  Not every motive and plot is revealed from the start.

In ancient times, China is divided into six nations.  The king of Qin secretly seeks to unite the six nations into one land.  However, his brutality and need for war creates hate among the people of all the nations.

Jet Li is the Nameless Master, a master of swordplay.  Orphaned as a child, when he learns the truth about his heritage he devotes all his time and strength to mastering the sword.  The king of Qin has put out a reward for the death of his three enemies: Sky, Broken Sword and Flying Snow.  At the beginning of the film, the Nameless master enters the castle of the Qin king as a friend, presenting the three weapons of the king's three enemies.

Nameless is allowed to enter the great hall to meet with the king.  The king wants to be regaled by the tales of how he defeated the three masters.  Nameless proceeds to tell three incredible stories.  The king however picks up on some inconsistencies and knows that Nameless is there as an assassin.  The stories continue to unfold as to what really conspired among Nameless, Broken Sword, Flying Snow and Sky.

The drama unfolds nicely and the martial arts sequences are extremely powerful.  The film's rating depends on the type of moviegoer that you are.  For some it will be painfully slow and boring.  Others will revel in the drama and action sequences.  Therefore the film gets a relatively high rating, leaving room to go above and below as the viewer sees fit.
Martial arts sequences are truly incredible.  They are not typical for action films of this type.  Typically the martial arts sequences are plagued by a lack of choreography fluidity.  "Hero's" choreography is clean and awe-inspiring.

The film also stars Zhang Ziyi.  She is an underrated talent that should be more prominent in the United States.  She has been in quite a few foreign films.  In the United States she has appeared in "Rush Hour 2" and contributed her voice talent to "TMNT."

"Hero" arrives on Blu-ray with a 1080p AVC encode at a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  The film has never received a good transfer on previous digital releases of the film.  So how is the Blu-ray transfer?  Well, it is sure to please most viewers, but still falls short of Blu-ray's true capabilities.  The most noticeable upgrade to this transfer is the color saturation.  Colors are lush and rich.  The reds and yellows of the Broken Sword and Flying Snow sequence is incredible.  The greens in the king and Broken Sword are magnificent.  Contrast levels are also remarkably improved.  However, contrast is a touch overblown at times.  Black levels are decent, but could be better to provide a more eye-popping image.  Details are missing for the most part.  Noise reduction has hampered the sharpness of the image.  Artifacting does appear in spurts throughout the film.  However, the key sequences are usually free form these artifacts.  Textures also suffer due to the noise reduction.  Close-ups don't reveal the facial textures that they should.  "Hero" has received a pleasing transfer for most, but will leave enthusiasts feeling wishy-washy about the quality.

Disney has chosen to present "Hero" with one lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio track.  This is the English dubbed audio track.  This means that the track is subtitled in English and contains a dubbed foreign language track.  This is detriment to some, as they prefer the original audio mix.  The original Chinese mix is presented on a Dolby Digital track with expanded data rate.  I want to say that the Dolby Digital track is better than the DTS-HD dubbed track, but I can't.  Just know that you will have to get past the dubbed track being the only lossless track on the disc.  That being said, the DTS-HD track is magnificent, but a bit inconsistent.  Dialogue is clean and clear (if you understand Chinese) and anchored in the center channel.  The entire audio track is immersive.  The music surrounds you at all times, but is lost at times among the other aspects of the audio.  Sound effects are a bit brittle.  It sometimes sounds as though your speaker cones are cracked.  The LFE channel is outrageous in this audio track.  It will make your house shake for sure.  Make sure that everything in your theater is tied down securely to avoid any rattling in your house.  Directionality is impressive.  The flying arrows by the Qin army come from all around.  You will like you are in the middle of the battle.  Dynamics are great, but frequency response is uneven.  A quick explanation about the rating; there is a half of one star deducted for the unevenness of the audio track, and another half deducted for the lacked of an original Chinese lossless audio track.

"Hero" comes in a two-disc Blu-ray package.  The second disc is simply a Digital Copy.  The supplemental package is almost identical to the original DVD released.  All the features have been left in standard definition.  "Hero Defined" is a behind-the-scenes look at the film.  "Inside the Action" is a meeting between Jet Li and Quentin Tarantino.  There is a promo for the film's soundtrack.  "Close-up of a Fight Scene" is the exclusive Blu-ray feature that offers very little.  Lastly there is a collection of storyboards.

"Hero" is a refreshingly original martial arts film.  There is repeatability in the watching of this film.  The video quality is an upgrade from the original DVD and the audio quality is terrific.  I definitely recommend this as an upgrade for fans and for casual movie viewers.

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