Written by Feng Li, Bin Wang, Yimou Zhang
Directed by Yimou Zhang
Running Time: 1:39
for stylized martial arts violence
and a scene of sensuality.
Hero is a visually stunning martial arts epic that is now out on Blu-ray and Special Edition DVD.
Nameless is a warrior from the Qin region of China. Singlehandedly, he has killed off the three people trying to assassinate the King of Qin. The King, grateful for the assistance, has asked to meet Nameless and honor him with gold and land. When he asks Nameless how he was able to defeat three great warriors on his own, Nameless tells him the stories. But the King is a smart man, and sees through the tall tales and offers his own version of what may have happened. Caught in the act, Nameless tells the truth and reveals that his family and village were destroyed by the King in the King's quest to unite the seven regions of China. Nameless is there to exact revenge, but will he be able to go through with his plan, now that he knows the true story behind the three assassins?
Hero first and foremost is an amazing looking film. The colors are spectacular and although I only have the Special Edition DVD I have to imagine the Blu-ray is even better. There are times on the transfer where the colors a little oversaturated and look blown out even on an HD TV, but when mixed with the martial arts and the music, it becomes a masterpiece in filmmaking. First let's discuss the plot. The story is told primarily in flashback, with some of it actually happening and some of it not. The first half of the movie is a story told by Nameless about how he fought off the three assassins. Except that for the most part, none of it happened. The second half is the real flashback which gives you more insight into the characters and their thinking. But it all boils down to the idea that a unified China, at any cost, is more important than any one person. Whether you agree with it or not, that is what defines a hero in this film. Nameless spends ten years to get within 10 paces of the King and has only one chance to make a decision that will define a nation. On its face, the idea that one person could control an army and slaughter tens of thousands of people, all in the name of country, is a scary one. But at the same time, do the ends justify the means? Is there a nation that exists today that didn't do the same thing? It just not something that is talked about but it happened all the time. We'd like to believe we're better than that, but we're not. So take the story for what it is.
Then there are the visuals. Each scene in the film seems to have its own color scheme. You can almost discuss the movie with someone and be able to define the scene by the color. The bright yellow fight scene between Snow and Moon. The rainy greys of the fight between Nameless and Sky. Each and every fight sequence is bathed in color and filled with swordplay out of this world. The choreography in the fight scenes are extraordinary. While in a lot of these martial arts epics you have shots of people seemingly flying through the air, think about what it takes to harness yourself up to a wire and still have the ability to make those moves. It is almost impossible to decide which is the best fight sequence in the film, but for me, it was one that - in the story of the film - only took place inside two peoples minds. It was a fight between Nameless and Broken Sword that took place on the water. The scenery was breathtaking, the the fluidity of the two actors as they battled while walking on water was amazing. But each fight scene had its own moments of beauty that make this movie stand out from its peers. Regardless of whether or not you like the story, the brilliance of the colors and fights make this a must-own DVD. The only downside to the movie is the sound transfer. While the visuals are fantastic, the sound comes off as second rate. The sound effects especially make the movie feel like a run-of-the-mill karate film, instead of a martial arts epic. While the Blu-ray version may be better, the DVD is sorely lacking in the audio department and was very disappointing.
The new Special Edition DVD is pretty much the same as the last DVD release, with the exception of a new documentary on the making of a fight scene. Is it worth upgrading? Probably not. This new version is worth owning if you've never owned the movie before and still don't have a Blu-ray player. My guesss is, this was a release timed to piggyback on the new Blu-ray release.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, Hero is a wonderfully filmed, beautiful looking martial arts epic that is filled with colors and fights beyond imagination. If you've never tried a martial arts film, this is the one to start with.
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