Directed by Zhang Yimou
Starring Jet Li, Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung, Zhang Ziyi, Donnie Yen
“Victory is always possible for the person who refuses to stop fighting.”
Wuxia is a broad genre of Chinese fiction concerning the adventures of martial artists set in ancient China. Although Wuxia is traditionally considered a form of literature, the genre is now found in art, comics, films, television, theatre and video games. Wuxia films feature dazzling fights and characters that can fly, move with extraordinary speed and generally defy the laws of gravity. Zhang Yimou (Raise the Red Lantern, To Live), a director that at the time was known for his dramas, loved the genre and wanted to try his hand at it: Hero was the result. Hero was recently release on Blu Ray by Miramax.
The Emperor has summoned Nameless (Jet Li) to his castle as the film opens. He wants to know how a single man could have dispatched all the enemies that were sent to destroy him. The story that unfolds is told in flashback and the audience sees the journey that brought Nameless to the feet of the Emperor as a hero.
The story is told from different perspectives, much in the same way as another great film Rashomon. The audience sees the story from Nameless’s perspective, the Emperor’s interpretation of what is told to him and what might be the truth of what happened.
Nameless has fought some of the fiercest assassins: Sky (Donnie Yen), Broken Sword (Tony Leung) and Flying Snow (Maggie Cheung).
Broken Sword and Flying Snow are in a relationship. However, Moon (Zhang Ziyi) is also in love with Broken Sword and Flying Snow and Moon have a dazzling fight amongst the fall leaves to win his heart.
While the plot can seem a bit convoluted or overly complex, the absolute centerpiece of this film is the breathtaking cinematography and stunning fight sequences. The film is a seamless mix of action, beautiful imagery with a dash of drama.
The performances by Jet Li, Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung and Zhang Ziyi are all impressive, not only delivering spectacular physical performances but presenting solid dramatic turns when the plot calls for it.
Hero was originally released in 2002 and was such a success for Zhang Yimou, he decided he would tackle the Wuxia genre again and gave to film fans House of Flying Daggers (2004) and Curse of the Golden Flower (2006). If you are a fan of this genre, those films are worth checking out as well.
I digress. Hero is a jewel in the crown of the Wuxia genre and any fan of Asian cinema will want to add this film to the library at home.
The film is presented in a dual layer 1080P/AVC MPEG 4 anamorphic widescreen. The overall image is respectable, although there was an unwelcome appearance of grain from time to time. The color palette is acceptably vibrant. However, the overall image could be a bit more detailed.
The original Mandarin language track is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 while the English dub is presented in DTS HD Master 5.1. I don’t understand why we can have both options presented in equal quality. Many of us prefer the original language with subtitles rather than the inferior English Dubs most foreign films are subjected too. All that aside, both tracks are acceptably well mixed with dialogue being clear on both.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The film is presented in a standard blu ray amaray case .
Hero Defined is a standard making of featurette. Inside the Action: A Conversation with Quentin Tarantino and Jet Li is a fun discussion between the two about the film. Tarantino does go on and on about Kill Bill quite a bit in the piece though.
Soundtrack Spot and Storyboards are self explanatory. No need for me to go on and on about these.
Close up of a Fight Scene shows how 4 different action scenes were achieved in the film.
Rounding things out are a Digital Copy of the film for your portable devices and D-Box Motion Code which is for people with D-box enable furniture that will synch shaking motions to coincide with the action on the screen.
Overall (Not an average) 7.5/10
The Movie 8.5/10
The Video 6/10
The Audio 6/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 6/10
Overall (Not an Average) 7.5/10