PictureWith its 2.40:1 image presented in 1080p on a dual layer 50GB Blu-ray disc, Warriors Of Heaven And Earth is certainly impressive upon an initial viewing. Encoded with the MPEG-2 codec, the film boasts a bold and well-saturated colour scheme, reasonably consistent contrast levels for the many daylight stretches, and pretty decent black levels that keep the picture well-anchored throughout. The source print is in good shape and the transfer commits no errors in bringing it to Blu-ray - there is no pixilation, colour-smearing, or compression artifacts to mar the image, although there is a small degree of edge-enhancement on show. Grain does reveal itself during scenes set either side of the lighting coin - both during some of the darker moments and then during some of the brighter scenes, too. But, for the most part, it is virtually unnoticeable.
With a palette that is rich and vibrant - just look at those desert landscapes and the garish costumes that some of the characters wear, the red of Li's comical helmet literally scorching the screen - Warriors can make for quite an arresting visual treat, although when you begin to analyze what is really taking place on-screen, it becomes apparent that the primaries have been boosted-up. Although I believe that this is an intentional aesthetic choice, it can prove a little distracting at times, rendering some scenes slightly uneven with thin elements of overly-pronounced red or blue.
Skin-tones are fairly naturalistic, considering the environment, but detail on them in close-ups can sometimes appear quite soft. Elsewhere, detail is actually very good, indeed. Costumes, flags and patterned fabric, weaponry and the assorted accoutrements of the camel train are sharply rendered. Distant mountain ranges and rock striations are clear and very discernable. Sand and grass are well presented by an image that holds up with such finite detail. However, one thing that doesn't come across so well is three-dimensionality. There are a great many instances when this high-resolution desirable could have been achieved - characters riding across the desert plains, people framed in doorways that open out into the vastness of the Gobi, side-on views of charging cavalry and the Warriors, themselves, scuttling about on the ramparts of the fort - but none manage to make the all-important leap from the screen, the depth of field seeming to flatten out when it should have driven deeper into the image.
Another element that proves problematic is with the darker interiors of some shots, which either don't achieve a deep enough level of shadow to convince or, worse still, actually soften up due to the contrast not locking down accurately. In the main, though, Warriors does have a much better image than the standard disc which I have since had a brief look at for comparison. Detail is much higher and the colours far more robust. Overall, then, this is a solid enough presentation with only a couple of niggling flaws.
SoundWith an extremely impressive PCM Uncompressed 5.1 track in Mandarin and one for its English dub, Sony have played a blinder with Warriors of Heaven and Earth in the audio department. Although I listened to both of these of tracks, the one that I would recommend would be the original Mandarin. Dubbed voices are dubbed voices, no matter how well integrated into a mix they are, and will never sound right.
Immediately immersive with hubbub, music and ambience nicely directed around the set-up, the PCM mix opens up the film right across the board. Dialogue is always crisp and clear and with a good degree of separation around the channels. Subtle effects, such as the sound of clinking armour, the scuffling of movement, the assorted noises amongst the riders and horses and the caravan train are finely distributed and you should find yourself enveloped within a sturdy and engrossing design. The score, by A.R. Rahman is pretty poor - coming over as way too buoyant to aid the story or the onscreen action and making way too many little Western-motiffs - but it is extremely well presented by this track. The few moments when the ubiquitous, and much more fitting, Taiko drums are called in for duty are quite electrifying, with excellent presence and pin-sharp clarity.
The plentiful action sequences are also suitably catered for with resonant sword-clangs, deep, guttural impacts and some fairly furious steerage around the speakers. Panning around the channels is not the most seamless that I have heard, but still very well-achieved and the larger-scale battles supply lots of room-filling detail. Bass levels are strong and deep too though, perhaps, not quite as aggressive as they could have been.
There is also a DD 5.1 track in Mandarin, but this does not sound as open or as involving as the PCM.
ExtrasNot much to report here, folks. We get the same extras that were to be found on the SD edition, which held only a half-hour Making Of - and is really only of interest to those who admire the terrific cinematography from Zhao Fei - and the Warriors of Peace music video from Jolin Tsai. Which is terrible. Nuff said.
VerdictDefinitely of the lower calibre of period martial arts movies, Warriors Of Heaven And Earth still provides a degree of colourful, if undemanding entertainment. It certainly isn't a film that I would feel inclined to return to, though. The characters and the story just don't resonate enough for me and, of course, there are all those botched battle scenes.
But, on a plus note, the BD release offers a more than decent transfer, with blistering PCM audio that works supremely well at bringing the film to life with flair and immediacy. The making-of documentary barely held my attention, but even if this disc was packed with special features, I doubt very much if the overall package would be fetched from off the shelf ever again. Hard to promote this one, really.
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