Confucius Blu-ray Review
PictureConfucius comes to Hong Kong Blu-ray with a gorgeous 1080p High Definition video rendition in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 widescreen. This is what the High Definition format is all about. Sure, Avatar may be the new benchmark in terms of video and audio presentation, but smaller, comparatively low budget titles like this are the bread and butter of the format, and it is always nice to have a solid entry in that respect. The detail here is excellent, with absolutely no softness, edge enhancement or digital defects, and no sign of any grain whatsoever. Contrast remains superb throughout, and the CG battle sequences blend quite effectively, despite obviously not being the kind rendered through a massive budget. Facial detail is excellent, the wider shots offer the same kind of breathtaking vistas and accurate representations of feudal china as Crouching Tiger (the cinematographer's work is recognisable in both) and we even get a hint of 3D pop thrown into the mix. Black levels remain solid and it really is a tremendous video presentation.
SoundWe get not one, but three outstanding audio tracks to pick from: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, Dolby TrueHD 7.1 and LPCM 7.1, all in the original Mandarin language. The one to choose is probably the DTS-HD offering, although they are all excellent. Dialogue is crisp and clear throughout, largely emanating from the centre channel, with a little directionality from the supporting surrounds. Chow Yun-Fat, once again, acquits himself well in speaking his non-native Mandarin, and the English subtitles are extremely good - very detailed and thorough throughout. Of course, there is one annoying problem: they come too fast and don't stay for long enough. I understand that the characters are speaking quickly, but the subtitles flash off the screen before you can possibly read them in their entirety, and I don't think it's just because the next words have to pop up - I think they genuinely flash them for an unnecessarily short period of time.
Going back to the audio, the effects range from massive battles and epic setpieces, where the surrounds come alive and through you into the arena, to the quieter, more contemplative moments, where the whistling wind and environmental, atmospheric touches seep at you from the rears. I have to say that I did not think that the score was particularly memorable, largely eschewing 'Eastern' tones in favour of a more 'Gone with the Wind' dramatic offering. I didn't like it, but it does not really take away from the movie, just does not add to it. And it certainly gets good coverage here, the fronts thundering the thematic score at all of the appropriate moments. Bass is generously spread out across the track and overall listeners are in for a treat with what's on offer here.
ExtrasThere are only two extras: a Photo Gallery of stills from the movie, and a Music Video.
VerdictConfucius is a reasonably successful attempt to provide a lavish, exciting and engaging take on the key events in the life of one of China's 'founding fathers'. With a commanding central performance by the ever-reliable and severely underused Chow Yun-Fat, some great battles and great battle tactics, and a solid central story about this famous (but little known in the West) philosopher and teacher, the story structure may be far from perfect, but it is still more honest than many recent more high-profile, and perhaps more memorable HK period epics. On Region Free Hong Kong Blu-ray we get excellent video and audio but limited extras. Overall it's a must-have for your collection if you like this movie. If you're new to it then it comes recommended to both fans of Chow Yun-Fat and fans of these kind of Chinese Dynasty period epics, a la Red Cliff.
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