Myth, The (UK - BD RB)
Leigh reviews Cine Asia's BD Ultimate Edition of this 2005 Jackie Chan opus
Jack (Jackie Chan) is an archaeologist who has been having bizarre yet lucid dreams of ancient China, in which he sees himself as General Meng-yi, ordered by the emperor to fetch a Princess Ok-soo (Kim Hee-seon). Rather than simply being vivid fantasy, Jackie suspects that he is glimpsing at his past life. Jack sets out to unravel the mystery, and discovers not only his true history, but a world he never imagined could exist.
In between his true Hollywood breakthrough Rush Hour and his most recent American production (The Forbidden Kingdom), Jackie Chan has been busy in his native territory making films that are multi language ventures designed to please the Chan fan base in both Cantonese and English language. It’s safe to say that almost all of these ventures have been middling, muddled affairs. The misfires are many, ranging from acceptable fare such as Who Am I and New Police Story, through to ill-advised dreck like The Medallion and Accidental Spy. Happily, this film sits with the former set, but it still has its own set of troubles.
The film marks the first fully fledged marriage of Chan’s more serious acting from the man's output such as Crime Story, and his lighter hearted Buster Keaton inspired slapstick action-adventures in the vein of Armour of God and Project A. The balance is interesting, and shows Chan in a surprisingly violent light, with the flashback sequences showing his characters cutting bloody trenches through swathes of opponents. In contrast, the majority of the present day fight sequences, while not classic Chan, still show that the man can choreograph the hell out of a set piece; the obvious standout being the memorable glue factory sequence in which Chan tackles multiple enemies on an adhesive conveyor belt. Regular Chan collaborator Stanley Tong helms the technical aspects well, with beautiful widescreen vistas and the particularly nice touch of the traditional slick modern look contrasting with the flashback sequences being shot in a deliberately vertically stretched image that harks back to the early Golden Harvest historical epic days. Unfortunately, Tong has trouble finding a consistent thematic tone throughout.
It’s all well and good making the film appear lavish, but it’s redundant if the film’s script is left wanting. When in synopsis form the film works perfectly fine, so it’s a mystery why when stretched to narrative format, it becomes such a jumbled, incoherent mess. It should also be noted that Tong simply shouldn’t attempt to tackle fully blown fantasy any time soon, as the final gravity-defying action sequences are lifeless affairs lacking any sense of energy. Coupled with some frankly atrocious CGI (check out the ‘floating coffee’ sequence for some truly low rent effects), it sees out the film with a whimper rather than a bang.
It’s a shame the film doesn’t really gel, because there’s some good stuff in there. It’s interesting watching Chan portray Meng-Yi, which clearly shows he can deliver a straight dramatic role, and it’s also nice to see him tackle a project that is tailored for an international market without losing its traditional Chinese flavour, but the general feeling of the project is that's it's a worthwhile watch, but is generally a missed opportunity. However The Myth is probably the best of Chan's Chinese-based multilingual output. Worth a curious look, by all means.
I've reviewed several of Cine Asia's releases during my tenure here at DVDActive, and I've commented upon the fact that they have a habit of cropping the images of their releases quite drastically from their OAR (most commonly from 2.25:1 to a cramped 1.78:1), often robbing the fight sequences in the films of the crucial set piece geography. Thankfully, The Myth has retained its original 2.35:1 format, and it couldn't look much better. It's a strong transfer, with some grain to be sure, but the image is nice and sharp, and I'll always go with slight grain and sharpness over the Vaseline effect of eliminated grain and overt softness. Sorry!
The colour palette is strong, with lush present day visuals coupled with a pleasing 'aged' look for the flashback sequences, delivering that classic colour scheme from the seventies that should give Kung Fu fans a warm, nostalgic feeling. Blacks are strong, contrast is spot on, and on the whole the transfer is one of the best this company have delivered. In fact, if there's any complaint, it's that the transfer is perhaps a little too finely tuned; the buffed image really brings the shocking CGI to the fore, making it stick out like a sore thumb.
The Myth comes equipped with a lively Cantonese/English Dolby Digital 5.1 option, serving the film well. Dialogue is to the fore, sitting nicely within the track. Battle sequences are impressive, with thundering horse hooves rumbling around the surrounds like nobody's business, and swords ringing pleasingly during battle. There is a nice balance between the sweeping score and the rest of the track, and overall the whole thing works perfectly fine. There is, however, a slight problem; the player generated subs for the Cantonese dialogue continue even when the film moves into English language, which is rather distracting. It wouldn't have been that hard to drop them for the English dialogue, would it?
There is also an English dub track in Dolby Digital 5.1, but I'm not sure if anybody even uses them anymore. To add insult to injury, not only is it a jarringly bad dub, Jackie Chan doesn't even provide his voice, which means we have a rather surreal situation around halfway through the film where we suddenly have a rather poor English dubbing artist providing dialogue from Jackie Chan that was English in the first place anyway. In an odd way, an entertaining track that is worth listening to exactly once.
Again, Cine Asia has bucked their previous trend to provide the viewer with a surprisingly packed bonus section. The disc kicks off with a solid ‘Making of’ that runs for twenty minutes, that goes into decent length concerning the production, with plenty of talking heads giving a more down to earth view of the film than our own more promotional savvy cast and crew might dare to give. Next up are individual interviews from Jackie Chan, Tony Leung Kar-fai, Kim Hee-seon, Mallika Sherawat, Stanley Tong, Sun Zhou and Choi Min-soo, that are essentially extensions of the interviews found in the making of, but are still of interest. We also have five ‘Deleted and Lost Scenes’, eleven ‘Behind the Scenes’ featurettes ranging between two and twenty minutes that cover the shooting of individual scenes from the movie, but are essentially our old friend, the B-Roll. The last one is more in depth, and details the Hong Kong premiere of the movie. There are also two feature trailers, music videos, trailers for other Cine Asia titles, and finally an Easter egg containing a Cannes Festival featurette that I'm buggered if I can find. Overall, a great set of feature for fans of the film.
It's been a long time coming ( The Myth was released in other territories way back in 2005), but for fans of this film will find this BD edition was worth the wait. While I'm not blown away by the film, I'll freely admit that it entertains, and is definitely worth a look on Blu-ray. With such a strong package on offer in both the A/V and bonus feature departments, those Chan fans who love the film will be pleased with this offering. For those who are more fair-weather, give it a look, but I'd recommend that those who want to see a mixture of modern and ancient martial arts action starring the man Chan might want to check out the underrated and (in my opinion) superior Forbidden Kingdom as an alternative. Don't dismiss The Myth, mind.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.
Review by Leigh Riding
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 4th May 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Cantonese, Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Cantonese, Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Extras: ‘Making of' Featurette, Trailer Music Videos Gallery, Interviews with Jackie Chan, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Kim Hee Seon, Mallika Sherawat, Stanley Tong, Sun Zhou and Choi Min Soo, Deleted Scenes, Lost Scenes, Behind the Scenes (11 Featurettes), Just For Laughs, HK Premiere, Easter Egg: Cannes Festival
Easter Egg: No
Director: Stanley Tong
Cast: Jackie Chan, Kim Hee Seon, Mallika Sherawat, Tony Leung Kar Fai
Length: 121 minutes
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