- Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080p/24
- Audio Codec: Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Digital 5.1
- Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish
- Region: A
- Rating: R
- Discs: 1
- Studio: Vivendi Entertainment/Weinstein Company
- Blu-ray Release Date: August 10, 2010
- List Price: $19.97
Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures
(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)
What do you get when you bring together some of the biggest names in Hong Kong cinema? An Empress and the Warriors, a lavish Chinese epic war story with a love triangle wrapped up in the middle of it is what. With Donnie Yen, the beautiful pop star and actress Kelly Chen and Leon Lai all brought together, there has to be something worthwhile going on, and there is — to an extent.
An Empress and the Warriors is set during a period in China before the country is unified and the land is beset by civil war. The Yan and the Zhao have been at war with each other for decades. King Yan (Weihua Liu) is wounded during a battle then killed by the scheming Hu Ba (Guo Xiao Dong), who wants to take his throne, but the Princess Yan Feier (Chen) is made his successor and she must train to become a true Yan warrior to earn the trust of the soldiers.
Murong Xuehu (Yen), commander of the Yan army and in love with the Princess, takes on the task of training her to become a warrior, but when Hu Ba hires a wizard to concoct a poison to kill the princess and sends a group of ninja assassins after her in the forest, she goes missing. She is rescued by a mysterious hermit named Duan Lanquan (Lai) who nurses her back to health. The two of them develop a romance, but Feier must decide between her heart and her loyalty to her people and her kingdom once she is healthy again. She also has the added burden of now being in love with two men — Duan Lanquan and Murong Xuehu.
That is the essence of An Empress and the Warriors’ plot, but it is not the film’s strength. What makes An Empress an enjoyable film to watch are the lavish sets, the beautiful cinematography that highlights the spacious Chinese countryside, the epic battle scenes, and the intricate costumes. The love story obviously placed there as a counterpoint to all the testosterone and violence is far too clumsy to be believable. The relationship between Feier and Duan Lanquan develops too quickly and is not explored enough to ring true. Other flaws are the unbelievably quick way that the princess suddenly becomes so adept at fighting on the battlefield after she has recovered from being poisoned, even though she never completed her training.
Never mind those quirks and inconsistencies, An Empress and the Warriors is still enjoyable and its two hours goes by in the blink of an eye.
An Empress and the Warriors’ AVC/MPEG-4 encoding has a clean transfer free from any obvious source damage. There’s a layer of grain that is quite heavy, but not distracting. It imparts a sharp, film-like quality to the image. Detail is strong and colors look natural. Blacks are deep and shadow detail is extended. The image sometimes softens a tad and grain jumps just a bit, but the overall image is strong and free from any compression artifacts.
I am perplexed as to why Dragon Dynasty would choose to release this film on Blu-ray with only the dubbed versions of the soundtrack in Dolby Digital 5.1 and not include the original Cantonese language soundtrack. Well, that is what we get with An Empress and the Warriors, a Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 and an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack — no lossless and no original language track.
The Mandarin 5.1 mix itself is okay for an epic like this. The action sequences are not as involved and engulfing as I would have liked them to be and there are ample opportunities with rainstorms where things could have been expanded more and weren’t. Also, the sound of swordplay was a bit grating at times, perhaps too tweaked in the upper registers. Dialogue was thankfully clear and free from any clipping.
This releases screams barebones, from the Dolby Digital soundtracks to the lack of a booklet, so an abundance of supplements was certainly not expected and they are not provided. You’ll get one audio commentary and a “making of” in standard definition, one that’s it.
The supplements provided with this release are:
- Audio Commentary by Hong Kong Cinema Expert Ben Logan — Logan certainly knows his stuff and this commentary provides quite a bit of information on this and other films as well as their stars. My recommendation is to skip the making of and just listen to this.
- The Making of An Empress and the Warriors (1.33:1; 480i/60)
The Definitive Word
An Empress and the Warriors is not the strongest historical Chinese epic you’ll ever see, but it packs enough action punch and visual “candy” to make it worth watching, especially with this strong high definition Blu-ray transfer.
Additional Screen Captures: