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1911 Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 2:35:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (23.976Hz)
  • Audio Codec: Mandaran DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Mandaran Dolby Digital 2.0, English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English Dolby Digital 2.0
  • Subtitles: English, Mandaran
  • Region: A (Region-Locked)
  • Rating: R
  • Run Time: 118 Mins
  • Discs: 2 (1 x Blu-ray + 1 x DVD)
  • Studio: Well Go USA
  • Blu-ray Release Date: January 10th, 2012
  • List Price: $32.98

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Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2.5/5]

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)

The Film

[Rating:4/5]

1911 – Fall of the Last Empire tells of the year of the Chinese Revolution against the Manchu Qing Dynasty. The culmination of years of effort by one Sun Yat-sen, the revolution takes us to many places: Europe, Japan, Northern/South China, and the United States. This was not merely an uprising of the lower classes seeking recompense against the elites of Chinese society. It was a struggle that took place on every level of Chinese life; all orchestrated directly or indirectly by Yat-sen and his friends and allies.

1911 is dominated by quick cuts and jarring action scenes that are quite effective at conveying the disarray and violence of war. In contrast are the more deliberately paced scenes focusing on politics, diplomacy and international relations of the countries that all have a stake in China’s future. Chan’s character of Huang Xin is the central figure of the former while Yat-sen is the focus of the latter, giving the movie a rather balanced take to what may at first seem to be the “The 1911 Chinese Revolution by Michael Bay”.

Highlights include Sun We, so-called throughout the movie, crashing a gentile gathering of rich foreign elites to plead his case for rebellion. After being initially dismissed through economic and business rationale, Sun turns their logic on its ear by explaining how they exploit and have always exploited China. To drive the point home, Sun carves pieces of meat from a roast to illustrate how Germany, England, and other countries have taken large areas of China for their own purposes since the Opium War of the 1840’s. A most effective scene, well balanced by clever dialogue and cogent analysis.

My favorite part of the film is the last half hour following the abdication of the Qing Empress Dowager. Having been depicted as squabbling elites throughout, this moment brings clarity to the reality of their situation. They want power, but they also don’t want to die.

Even though the declaration is definitely over-the-top, the Qing acknowledgement of previous revolutionary results (French) is poised and clear, almost as to suggest that they were once reasonable people, merely caught up in the corrupting influence of power. The crying of the 7-year-old crown prince throughout is clear yet subtle at the same time, helping to humanize the Qing oppression of the Chinese people.

Following is the return of Sun to the Chinese mainland and his establishment of a provisional government. The viewer gets insight in the political process and feels like they are being guided throughout the final steps of the revolutionary process. While Sun is depicted as nearly saintly and perfect throughout the film, there are moments in which even he is affected by frustration and the negative effects of rapid political change. It is refreshing to see the man angered by the Qing and Yuan Shikai in short order, further illustrating that he was an exceptional and well educated man, but a man nonetheless, and just as susceptible to weakness as anyone.

In all, 1911 is a solid film for historical buffs, Jackie Chan fans, and political fans alike. Even though we only get to see Chan’s martial arts in one scene (a jarring scene that feels it was written like an afterthought) I think fans of his work owe it to the actor to see him in a different kind of film. While it was the history that made me want to see this movie, I found a lot more to like.

Video Quality

[Rating:4/5]

The 2:35:1 framed, AVC/MPEG-4 encoded transfer is solid. The film’s color palette, focusing on a wide range of colors, mostly look impressive. Detail is fine throughout and does contain a good amount of pop at times. Contrast levels are accurate as are flesh tones on our characters. Some of the exterior shots, in particular that of some of the early battles, can tend to look a bit soft. This isn’t a big negative in my eye, just more something I noticed during this roughly 20 minute initial sequence. The film’s print is in fine condition with no instance of damage, grain levels are kept in check and there’s no notice of any DNR or EE used. All in all, this is a solid effort from Well Go USA.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

The film’s provided Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is quite good. This film’s audio consists of conversation about politics of rebellion, politics, life and more punctuated by scenes of the Sturm und Drang of the battlefield, i.e. sounds of guns firing, spears and swords stabbing, and explosives flying to cause destruction and death. The contrast is startling but obvious, and quite effective at showing the viewer the disparate worlds of a rebellion; the aural power of its political speakers and the auditory power of its military leaders engaged in a struggle for success. All in all, a fine effort from Well Go USA.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:2.5/5]

The included features are shown in a mix of HD and SD:

  • Deleted Scenes [HD] – Roughly about 10 minutes worth. Some deleted, some merely extended; all are worth seeing. The highlight is Sun talking about foot binding with a little girl.
  • First Behind the Scenes [SD] – A standard 30 minute view into the exercise of filmmaking. It was interesting enough, but I was wishing for more description to better punctuate the process. The filmmakers’ fascination with the scene in the barren snows of Northern China is covered a little TOO long.
  • Trailers – A standard preview for the film. Originally released around the October 2011 premiere.
  • Interview with Li BingBing (Hu Xiang’s wife) [SD] – This is roughly 5 minutes and is quite a departure from the standard actor interview, if only due to cultural differences (much like the whole point of the film) I was left wondering if the questions and responses are carefully monitored by the state due to the long pauses between questions. It seems like Li was rather careful in how she responded.
  • Hong Kong Press Conference with the 3 stars [SD] – This 29 minute feature is a press junket for the film’s official Asian Premiere. It was a very interesting discussion full of standard questions to the film’s 3 major stars. It is interesting how they use the Chinese honorific system to state Jackie Chan’s name and suchlike, all amounting to cultural differences. Lastly, Jackie can’t decide between speaking Mandarin and Cantonese, a true showman who can make even a mundane task very entertaining.
  • More Behind the Scenes [SD] – An additional 30 minutes of material is shown. This, is kind of like the above feature and is strictly for the film’s hardcore fans.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:3.5/5]

Jackie Chan’s 1911 is a well-made historical drama, of which is presented with fine video and audio from Well Go USA. Recommended.

Additional Screen Captures

[amazon-product]B005ZMBBRY[/amazon-product]

Also Available:

BestBuy.com:
1911 -

Purchase 1911 on Blu-ray + DVD at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2.5/5]

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