'Storm Warriors 2' is presented in widescreen 2.35:1 with MPEG-4 AVC 1080p coding.
As is to be expected from such a recent release the quality of the print is pretty much perfect, with a light smattering of grain in the majority of the scenes. There is plenty of detail on show, as exemplified by the intricately designed period weapons and armour. Swords have an almost tangible quality and although the use of green screens can render some of the scenes a little false looking, this is a very solid transfer overall. Special effects, such as wisps of black smoke (which are drawn from the fists of our heroes) and shots of individual drops of water (that the Pang's seem very fond of including), are very well defined indeed. The muscularity of the various martial arts warriors also stand out with good definition during fight scenes. Facial close-ups expose pores, individual hairs and even a spot of make up on occasion.
The contrast ratio is almost reference quality stuff at times, with inky blacks on display during the darker portions of the movie and bright whites during the outdoor scenes (even if these are slightly overblown at times). For example, as Lord Nameless stands shrouded in black ninja garb, it was almost as though someone had cut his form from the image and left a gaping black hole! Shadow detail is very impressive, with the ebony armour of Lord Godless exposing a huge wealth of intricate detail. Even in the brazier lit caves, where some of the battles take place, there is absolutely no loss of detail. Ice crystals can even be seen forming as “evil” Wind casually freezes his foes to death.
Some of the scenes have a nice depth, with thin plumes of smoke and rocky mountains visible in the background, as we look out at the countryside from Lord Wicked's mountain hideout. There are some instances of three-dimensionality and the majority of objects have a nice rounded appearance, lifting the print from the screen to a certain extent. Overall the presentation is very moody and is steeped in dark colouring, with green hues creeping into some of the cave based scenes. Outside, the colouring is (obviously) brighter, with some bold primaries coming into play (such as the deep red of Cloud's cloak), offering a refreshing change to the gloom of Lord Wicked's cave (although the palette is still decidedly earthy).
While appearing sharp and well defined for the majority, there are a couple of scenes that appear and little soft around the edges. This is particularly true in some of the background imagery; I believe that this may be a direct result of overusing green screen effects but I can't be sure. This release scores a solid eight and provides a nice complement to the movie's epic surround track.
The subtitles are easy to read on this one and the translation is actually pretty good (although it wouldn't be difficult with such rubbish dialogue!)
'Storm Warriors' comes packed with not one, not two but three Cantonese 7.1 uncompressed tracks (dts HD Master Audio, PCM and Dolby True HD). In theory all three should sound identical but I stuck with the True HD track for the purpose of this review as it sounded a little meatier on my system.
Oh man, this is one of the most powerful movie tracks that I have heard in some time. The opening title theme is simply immense and really sets the tone for the remainder of the run time. There were times that the hairs on the back of my neck stood up with the power and excitement that this surround mix generates. The various special effects bring forth immense waves of bass that ricochet around all seven speakers with (sometimes) startling accuracy; fireballs explode directly behind the listening position, swords ring with high treble and typhoons vibrate the entire room. The stereo reproduction is incredibly accurate and involving and this really is a demo worthy disc, containing some standout scenes that will really test the mettle of your surround system.
The subwoofer is an absolute beast and is pretty much rumbling for the duration, as our fearless warriors encounter waves of explosions and other impacts (as well as providing plenty of their own). The vocals are not always locked the centre and rotate freely around the listening plane. I did feel at times that the spoken word was a little drowned out by the activity from the other channels but this is not a major issue when you're watching a subtitled movie (some of the words would probably have been a little indistinguishable if I could understand them!). The engineering on the track has obviously been given a lot of attention (as well muscular presence). For example, vocals and other audible touches echo around the listening position during the “cave” based scenes.
The activity from the surround channels is a constant affair. Simple effects such as the crackling of braziers and chirp of insects can clearly be heard during the more subdued moments, with the battle sequences making full use of the four surround channels. For example, as Cloud tackles Earth and Sky (two of Lord Godless' more powerful minions), the clash of steel on steel brings forth immense surround interaction across the back listening plane. Although I wouldn't normally complain about an aggressive sound mix, at times the levels on the surround channels appeared to be a little boisterous (when compared to the fronts) and this flaw prevents this track from scoring the perfect ten.
The score, in perfect complement to intense special effects, is a powerhouse of orchestral involvement. Although it's not an overly original affair, I was reminded of several Hollywood action blockbusters (such as 'Conan', 'Lord of the Rings' and '300') at times, reaffirming my opinion that the score really suits the source material. There are a few scenes where the score mellows to more piano based numbers but for the majority it's an all out full orchestral onslaught, with strings, tom drums and woodwinds battering the listener constantly. Involvement from all available channels is sublime although it does suffer from the aforementioned over exuberant use of the surround channels at times. Even the super cheesy title theme is worth a listen on this uncompressed track!
Just falling short of top marks, this disc has made its way into my demo pile and although the mix is not perfect, it's one that will definitely blow the socks off your mates (which is what we all secretly strive to do with our BDs!).
The additional supplements seem to be a well packed department on this release but upon closer inspection, the run time is pretty short in total. There is also no HD content included but at least all the features have English subtitles, which gains some bonus points.
The Storm Warriors Theme Song - The super cheesy theme song from the movie is included here in paltry standard definition and stereo sound. It unsurprisingly sounds a lot worse than it did on the 7.1 uncompressed track.
Interviews with the Directors and Cast (SD) - This feature is pretty much self explanatory and includes interviews with the Pangs (10mins), Aaron Kwok (4mins), Ekin Chen (3mins), Simon Yam (5mins), Nicholas Tse (5mins), Kenny Ho (1min), Charlene Choi (10mins and sporting a bloody lip!) and Tang Yan (1min). The Pangs provide some interesting insight into how the movie came together, the special effects and their favourite scenes. The rest of the cast speak about their characters, their experiences of working with the Pangs and also with their fellow cast members. Interesting and delivered with perfunctual Asian politeness, but there's not anything here that would draw me back for a second viewing.
Making Of (SD) - This extensive making of documentary is presented in a number of chapters. “The Story - Characters” (4mins) takes a look at all the characters that feature, interspersing interviews with the cast with footage from the motive itself. “The Story - The Reunion of Wind and Cloud” (3mins) takes a brief look at how the two primary characters were reunited in this movie. Interviews with the Pangs, Ma Wing Shin and Chen/Kwok are included. “Special Effects - Montage” (3mins) explains how the stylish flashback scenes in the movie were put together. “Special Effects - The Origin of all Swords” (2mins) takes a look at the coolest special effect in the movie; Lord Nameless' wall of swords special attack. “Special Effects - Production” (1min) gives an overview of the special effects in general and how faithful they are to the comic books. “The Production Line-up” (4min) features another overview of the special effects employed in the movie, focusing on some of the choreography and martial arts styles that feature. “Cloud's Ba Style” (3mins) features Cloud's “invisible sword” (or “Sword of Stars”) special move and how it was created. “Wind Turned Evil” (3mins) focuses on the transition of Wind to the dark side and the icy powers that he gains. “The Fatal Battle on the Cliff” (2mins) takes a look at how the epic (and disappointing) end battle was put together. “Composition of Special Effects” (5mins) takes the four most action packed scenes from the movie and layer by layer exposes how the special effects were added; pretty cool. Some of the chapters are interesting but there does seem to be a little overlap between this feature and the “interviews” feature.
Photo Gallery - A high definition photo gallery, which features eighteen stills from the movie.
Trailers - Included here are two standard definition trailers for the feature presentation.
'Storm Warriors 2' was released in 2009 and was directed by the Pang brothers. Although this is a follow up to 1998's 'Storm Warriors' and features both Aaron Kwok and Ekin Cheng as they reprise their roles as Cloud and Wind (respectively), this movie is designed to be a standalone piece. Whilst not matching up with other martial arts ground breakers such as 'House of Flying Daggers', this movie manages, in combination with its frantic pace to hold the viewers attention for the first three quarters of its two hour run time. At this point, the production loses steam as it grinds to a halt with a very unsatisfying anti-climax. Fantastical and laden with 1980s martial arts dialogue, the charm of the movie is undeniable but the density of the comic book source material, wafer thin plot and slightly over exuberant use of special effects prevents this movie from reaching its full potential.
The transfer on 'Storm Warriors' is very sold and well defined for the duration. The dark and moody colouring suits the tone of the piece but the over use of green screens (I suspect) leads to some of the scenes appearing a little soft around the edges. The 7.1 uncompressed surround track is one of the most involving and impressive tracks that I have heard in some time. However, the surround channels did sound a little too high in the mix, preventing this track from getting top marks (even if it did make its way into the demo material category). The extras portion thankfully comes with English subtitles and there's some worthwhile content in here. In saying some of the features were a little short lived and woolly, detracting from the value of the overall package. All in all this an impressive BD release, that's let down somewhat by the feature presentation. It's worth a watch but only fans of this type of movie will really enjoy it.
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