Confucius (UK - DVD R2)
Confucius say, Marcus, who watches movie on DVD will know it's better in HD
Set in China in 500 BC, this epic tale tells the story of Kong Ze aka Confucius (Chow Yun-Fat) as he uses his wisdom to change his kingdom’s out of date thinking and inadvertently becomes part of a larger struggle with the neighbouring war-mongering kingdoms.
I didn’t know much about Confucius beyond knowing his philosophy is referred to a lot in martial arts movies and what he says always seems pretty insightful and an honourable ideal for the human race to aim towards. From the opening scenes of this movie, the mix of Chow Yun-Fat’s calming presence and the melodramatic score I found myself instantly warming to the character and his ideals.
The movie doesn’t sit in small political disputes for long and we’re soon thrust into the larger battle of kingdoms and the threat that Confucius’s forward thinking presents to the neighbouring nations if he strengthens his own nation of Lu. Despite hinting at larger scaled battles, the movie thankfully keeps the epic moments focused on Confucius’s words and wisdom and we don’t slip into scene upon scene of CGI armies running at each other (too much).
What we end up with for the most part is a soft, heart-warming experience charting the life of the man and his teachings, how he affects those around him and of course how his ideals are still relevant in the modern world. The scale is large, but it’s kept personal and the drama is played out well with the score upping the emotional punch in all the right places.
Being standard definition, there’s a softness to the image that makes the movie look older than it is which might actually go in Confucius’s favour. That said there is quite a lot here that’s lacking. There’s an awful lot of blue in the movie and it never seems to be taken advantage of enough with the power of SD. For example, the council scene with the members' bold blue costumes just about pops out from the screen, but textures are muted and the wider shots can look a bit hazy.
CGI shots are always very obvious and the framing seems a bit off in places with the on screen descriptions falling off the screen on a couple of occasions, but generally Confucius looks no worse than other Cine Asia titles on DVD that I’ve reviewed lately and honestly it's probably because the majority of my movie watching lately has been on Blu-ray that I was always aware of how much better some of these scenes could have looked in HD.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track has a real presence, which in large part is due to the huge sounding score. Every tiny moment of drama is underlined with the score and due to its melodramatic approach the score tells us all exactly what to feel every step of the way.
Dialogue sits well in the front speakers, though as is the case with most Eastern movies, the overdub always feels a couple of nanoseconds out and never feels that it was recorded at the same time as the acting. Sound effects range from punchy to subtle and generally all feel natural and while the track isn’t really anything to get excited about it has its moments.
Besides the batch of ‘also available’ trailers to look at there’s a commentary track from Hong Kong Cinema expert Bey Logan which is as detailed and full of facts as you’d expect from an expert and offers up extra insight into the story of Confucius.
The making of gallery consists of ‘From Chow Yun-Fat to Confucius’ (06:43), ‘ A Woman, A Bosom Friend' (06:43), ‘Chaotic Period of Spring and Autumn' (08:19), ‘From Chow Yun-Fat to Confucius Special Edition’ (06:42), ‘The Politicians’ (06:54), ‘Animal Stars’ (07:24), ‘Progressing in the Snow’ (06:10) and ‘The Warfare’ (06:49). All are short but when watched together offer up a fairly good making of with plenty of interviews, on set footage and information on the project.
Last up is the trailer (01:41) which makes the movie look like an action movie, which is really isn't.
Confucius is a focused affair which taps into the emotional core of the historical figure. It has the obligatory war scenes which can be visually exciting in places but luckily they don’t overpower the way of a solid performance from Chow Yun-Fat who really is the anchor to this whole project.
The disc itself is as typical as they come from DVD, with little in the way of excitement in the transfer, audio or extras departments. The Blu-ray might be a different experience but the ‘standard’ in standard definition is quite apparent here.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 4th October 2010
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Mandarin, Dolby Digital 2.0 Mandarin
Extras: Commentary, Featurettes, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Hu Mei
Cast: Chow Yun-fat, Zhou Xun, Chen Jianbin, Ren Quan, Lu Yi, Yao Lu
Genre: Drama and War
Length: 119 minutes
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