Viy 2 AKA Viy 2: Journey to China AKA Tayna pechati drakona AKA The Iron Mask AKA The Mystery of th [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Signature Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Rick Curzon (5th June 2020).
The Film

The Iron Mask sees action legends Jackie Chan and Arnold Schwarzenegger team up in a high concept fantasy historical epic featuring breath-taking fights and stunning visuals. Set in the 18th century, The Iron Mask follows English traveller Jonathan Green as he journeys from Russia to China encountering dragons, black magic wizardry and a dragon king during an incredible but deadly adventure.

The action adventure also stars Charles Dance, Jason Flemyng and Rutger Hauer.

Video

Anyone who has seen Oleg Stepchenko's Viy (2014)* (pronounced "vee") will know what to expect; a rollicking action fantasy with a light touch and plenty of humour that has the look of an over-bright comic strip or a child's storybook. That film was made in 3D and used the format well which would probably explain the over-lighting; this was the same. Known under various titles this seems to have started as The Viy 2: Journey to China and was finally called Tayna pechati drakona (Mystery of the Dragon Seal) in it's native Russia.

The Iron Mask was lensed using Arri Alexa ARRIRAW in (I think 4K) and finished in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Well, according to IMDB. Wikipedia says:

The film was shot in real 3D with two ARRI Alexa M mounted on STEREOTEC MID Size Rig, with two ARRI Alexa Mini mounted on STEREOTEC Light Weight Rig and with CODEX Action Cam 3D mounted on STEREOTEC Nano Rig.


The image is extremely sharp and detailed with very little grain in evidence. Colours are rich and vivid making for a lively storybook look. Much of the production design takes on a blue-gray-black look but the overall palette judging by the flesh tones is naturalistic. Soldiers wear bright red coats which just pop off the screen.

Black levels are rich and deep with plenty - possibly too much - shadow detail. I felt after watching Viy that a darker, more whispery overall look and cast might have boosted the atmosphere somewhat and that seems to apply here as well. But, this is obviously Stepchenko's style.

Contrast is perfectly layered and supportive for the detail with a very contrasty image that even with daylight streaming into the room whilst I write this means the image still holds it's own. Detail is consistently excellent across all focal planes and the encode is top notch; I saw no signs of digital splats, holes in the (fairly fine and limited) grain. Being a digitally shot production this doesn't have a filmic look at all. In the end, you either like the clean digital look or you don't. I must admit I don't mind it but much prefer the grainier look of photochemical film.

The short of it is, that tuis is demo quality material with a pin sharp, first rate image harvest.

* AKA Forbidden Kingdom.

1080/24p / MPEG-4 AVC / 1.85:1 / 120:20

Audio

English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
English LPCM 2.0 Stereo
Subtitles: English HoH

Ignore the 2.0 track which is certainly a fine way to experience the film especially if you're watching through a sound bar but the 5.1 track ks demo material. Base is exceptionally well reproduced and the subwoofer was very active in the action scenes. Surrounds are ever present with ambiance and score, which never interferes with the dialogue. Wind, thunder and lightening buffet the viewer from all directions. This is a demo track well designed to test your system.

I'm happy to report that subtitles for the hearing impaired have been included so no demerits for the lack thereof.

Extras

Startup trailers:
- Valhalla: Legend of Thor (1:45)
- First Love (1:50)


The usual promos for other releases from Signature Entertainment

Packaging

Standard blue Blu-ray keepcase.

Overall

Excellent, detailed well balanced image as you'd expect from a modern very recent production. It's bright, generally well lit digitally shit production. Sound is full and robust as one would expect from a big budget, blockbusting fantasy such as this. Extras are sadly nonexistant who h is a crying shame as I'm sure there was at least some EPK material that could've been included.

Very possibly the finest quality disc and transfer I've had from Signature Entertainment which is a shame then that it's such a barebones affair with no 3D option; witness the bit where a fish flies directly into the camera, slows down into slow motion for a second right in the centre of our vision which here looks daffy in 2D.

This is a cheaply priced disc and is well worth the money. Purists may want to wait for a 3D option elswhere, but until then this is a demo quality release.

The Film: B- Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: E Overall: B-

 


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