Legend Of The Black Scorpion: Ultimate Edition
R1 - America - Genius Products
Review written by and copyright: Andreas Petersen (8th March 2008).
The Film

Remember when "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" (2000) came out eight years ago, and it was truly unlike anything anyone had seen before? Warriors majestically flew through the sky as they did battle amid gorgeous backdrops, set in ancient China. The film was such a hit, it spawned what seemed to be a whole new genre of kung-fu movies. We had "Hero" (2002), "House of Flying Daggers" (2004) and now the latest entry into the Peter Pan-meets-Bruce Lee-genre, "The Legend of the Black Scorpion". The film is an adaptation of the Shakespeare play "Hamlet", only set in ancient China. Other than that, I feel this movie has very little to offer.
Let me start off by stating I was never a big fan of flying kung-fu. Iím a huge fan of people fighting on the ground, and for some reason could never get into movies where the warriors were defying gravity. This by default was one of my biggest problems with the film. It builds up so much around these fight sequences (choreographed by legendary Yuen Wo-ping), that when they happened, Iím just not impressed. The other aspects of the film are decent enough. Feng Xiaogangís direction is acceptable enough, but I feel like he reuses many of his shots, and after a while, I felt like I was watching the same scene over and over and over again. Likewise, the cinematography looks good, and the sets are at times amazing, but again, I really feel like Iíve seen it all before.
The best part about this movie is seeing how the story of "Hamlet" has been transferred into ancient China. Wu Lan (Daniel Wu), the Hamlet character, goes off to study art and dance after his father marries his love interest, Empress Wan (Zhang Ziyi). Wu Lanís father dies (poisoned in the ear, just like in Hamlet), so his uncle Li (Ge You) swoops in and marries Wan and takes the throne. As the story progresses, we get our Ophelia character in Quing (Zhou Xun), Polonius in the form of a marshal (Ma Jingwu) and in turn a Leartes in his son (Huang Xiaoming). It was entertaining to see how a few tweaks to the story made the tale of Hamlet feel fresh. Instead of one evil uncle after the throne, multiple plots are thrown in to make the whole story that much more devious. Performances all around were alright, though at times I felt like the whole story was going a big overboard with the melodrama, and considering this is based off a Shakespeare play, that is saying something. I guess I should have expected the hammy acting going in.
"Legend of the Black Scorpion" is an interesting movie that I can only suggest to either fans of Shakespeare, or people who havenít gotten sick of seeing people fly around gracefully on strings. As a member of the latter, I had a hard time getting into the movie.

Video

The one consistent thing about these high-flying-fighting movies is that they are shot against beautiful scenery located in China. To truly capture this, the film has a brilliant 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that retains all the majesty of the filmís amazing sets. Every scene was color-perfect.

Audio

The film is offered in Mandarin Dolby 5.1, Mandarin DTS 5.1, and English Dolby 5.1. Even though I watched the film in 5.1, I donít feel there was enough noise to make full use of this set up. In the filmís fight sequences, I always felt like there were some sound effects missing. I assume they were going for some sort of minimalist thing, but it didnít really work for me.
Optional subtitles are included in both English and Spanish.

Extras

Genius Products has released this film as a 2-disc 'Ultimate Edition' and packed the release with extras that include an audio commentary, two interviews, a featurette, some behind-the-scenes footage and a collection of theatrical trailers and Bonus trailers. Below is a closer look at these extras broken down per disc.

DISC ONE:

The disc also contains a feature-length audio commentary with Hong Kong cinema aficionado Bey Logan. This track is the definition of an ďinformativeĒ commentary. Logan almost never stops talking, and has something interesting to say about practically every aspect of the film. While the commentary is a heavy flow of information, it never feels over bearing, and Logan remains personable throughout, and Iím completely sold on this guyís passion for Hong Kong cinema.

A few bonus trailers play for other movies on the Dragon Dynasty label when you pop the movie in. They are:

- "Seven Swords" which runs for 1 minute and 58 seconds.
- "Robin B Hood" which runs for 2 minutes and 15 seconds.
- "The City of Violence" which runs for 1 minute and 41 seconds.
- "Dog Bite Dog" which runs for 1 minute and 54 seconds.

DISC TWO:

"Master of Ceremonies: An Exclusive Interview with Director Feng Xiaogang" is first, this interview runs for 20 minutes 16 seconds. This lengthy interview lets the filmís director explain what drove him to make the film. He spends time talking about how much he wanted to make his own original film, so I feel kind of bad in regards to how unoriginal I feel the film was. Feng also describes many anecdotes while prepping for the movie and shooting it. Really, this feature acts as a mini-commentary on the film.

"Warrior Prince: An Exclusive Interview with Leading Man Daniel Wu" is next, this interview runs for 23 minutes 30 seconds. I was taken aback because Wu is pretty much as American and Americans come, but portrays a convincing inhabitant of ancient China. Daniel describes why he enjoys working with Xiaogang, his experiences making the film, and how excited he was to work with Wo-ping.

"The Making of Legend of the Black Scorpion" featurette runs for 15 minutes 3 seconds. This behind-the-scenes look shows the director in action behind the camera, and shows the cast in between takes having a great time. The construction of the sets, the costumes, the films massive budget, as well as other facets, is examined.

"A Dynasty Uncovered: Behind the Scenes on Legend of the Black Scorpion" features footage that runs for 43 minutes 24 seconds. This feature feels more like a comprehensive making of than the ďMaking OfĒ feature. I wish they maybe had been combined into on feature-length making of. Dynasty Uncovered contains much more candid footage, going into the depth of Xiaogangís method as a director, why certain decisions concerning the film were made, as well as an analysis of the story and the characters which inhabit it.

Lastly, a trailer gallery has been included:

- Original theatrical trailer which runs for 2 minutes and 41 seconds.
- The 2nd original theatrical trailer runs for 1 minute and 42 seconds.
- The original teaser trailer runs for 2 minutes and 43 seconds.
- And finally a Cannes promo trailer runs for 6 minutes and 55 seconds.

Packaging

This 2-disc set is packaged in an amaray case housed in cardboard slip-cover.

Overall

The Film: C+ Video: A Audio: B+ Extras: A Overall: B

 


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