Hero: Special Edition DVD & Blu-ray
by Jef Burnham
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Every time I revisit Zhang Yimou’s Hero (Ying xiong) starring Jet Li, I am in awe of the quiet intensity of Christopher Doyle’s cinematography and the heart the performers bring to what might otherwise be any other lifeless action film. One of the most visually and thematically rich martial arts films of all time, Hero was nominated Best Foreign Language Film at both the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes (in 2002 and 2003 respectively). Given the advancements in home theaters since the film’s 2004 DVD release, Hero undoubtedly deserves a release on Blu-ray, but there will be a large number of fans disappointed in the release’s technical specifications; and the concurrent re-release of the film on DVD as a “Special Edition” is arbitrary at best.
Complaints about the Blu-ray audio specs are already starting to surface online. The English dub of the film is mastered in DTS, which is the format greatly preferred by home theater aficionados. However, true fans of the film are not going to be watching the film dubbed, but with the original Mandarin soundtrack. Yet Miramax decided to release the disc with the Mandarin track mastered in the inferior Dolby Digital format. Granted, my system is not set up for DTS sound, but I am well aware of the difference and the error in Miramax’s judgment is obvious.
With the exception of one featurette, the bonus features on this release are identical to those of the 2004 release. Therefore, if you own the 2004 DVD and are not planning to upgrade to the Blu-ray, skip this “Special Edition” (unless the remastering and the single new feature are too much for you to resist). The new feature “Close-Up of a Fight Scene” (approx. 9 minutes) is basically a retrospective “making-of” that focuses specifically on the fight scenes. As for the returning features: “Hero Defined” (approx. 24 minutes) is a making-of featurette that boasts conversations with the actors and filmmakers, as well as Quentin Tarantino, who produced the American release of the film. “Inside the Action: A Conversation with Quentin Tarantino & Jet Li” (approx. 14 minutes) features clips from some of Li’s other films and Tarantino and Li discussing Jet Li’s career, Kill Bill, and of course, Hero; but this turns into yet another making-of featurette about 8 minutes in. Lastly, is a 5-minute storyboard comparison for select fight sequences.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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