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The Great Magician Blu-ray Review

great-magician-blu-ray-coverU.S. Release

  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (24Hz)
  • Audio Codec: Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/16-bit), Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0, English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/16-bit), English Dolby Digital 2.0
  • Subtitles: English
  • Subtitles Color: White
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1 (1  x Blu-ray)
  • Digital Copies: N/A
  • Run Time: 129 Mins.
  • Studio: Well Go USA Entertainment
  • Blu-ray Release Date: March 19, 2013
  • List Price: $29.98

Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:3/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:1/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(The below TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:3/5]

Great-Magician-BD_01

Director/screenwriter “Derek” Yee Tung-Shing, normally known for such crime dramas as Triple Tap and Shinjuku Incident, takes a refreshing change of pace with this fantasy/actioner starring heavyweight actors Tony Leung and Lau Ching Wan. Based on a novel by Zhang Haifan, The Great Magician is an offbeat blend of comedy, romance, and magic set just after the revolution that overthrew the Qing Dynasty. Yee and his co-screenwriters Chun Tin Nam and Lau Ho Leung, in the tradition of Hollywood films such as The Prestige and The Illusionist, find much majesty in magic, even during the tumultuous period during which the film is set. Unlike its counterparts, however, it manages to remain upbeat, humorous, and avoid most of the melodrama.

It is shortly after the fall of the Qing dynasty and China has fallen into a battle of warlords vying for power. The great illusionist Zhang (Leung) has returned from overseas, disheartened to discover that the terrible warlord Bully Lei (Lau) and his henchman are using the power of magic to scare the people into joining his army. Even worse for Zhang, Bully wants his fiancé Yin (Zhou Xun) for his seventh wife. He is holding her against her will and  has kidnapped her father in order to force her to agree to marriage. Zhang is determined to win back his sweetheart, and with the help of a group of rebels fighting to bring down the warlord Bully, he has a plan to to just that, but the closer he gets to his goal, the closer he gets to Bully, and discovers that Bully isn’t all that he appears. A showdown may be in the works to win the hand of Yin and to rescue China, but it may not be with whom Zhang thought.

If there’s are flaws in The Great Magician, they are that the film’s over two-hour running time could have been shaved a bit and the plot tightened just tad. Another problem is the film exists in two distinct halves – Act I, in which we are tossed into a drama/thriller type world with mystery and suspense, and Act II plus denouement in which the film takes a hard turn into comedy and more fantastical elements. Both halves are good, but Yee never really bridges the two well. That said, it does move along at a rather good pace and offer some surprises one wouldn’t necessarily expect. The visuals are brilliant, particularly the scenes of Zhang throwing “cold fire” around, and the luxuriant set designs and wardrobes of Bully’s wives. With just a little tweaking in the editing room, this film cold have been perfected.

Video Quality

[Rating:4/5]

Great-Magician-BD_02

The Great Magician was shot on various medium and high speed 35mm Kodak film stocks using Arricam ST/LT and Moviecam Compact cameras. The end result, with this Blu-ray encodement in AVC/MPEG-4 at 1080p, is a film-like appearance with good texture and strong contrast, but just a bit of softness in the overall image and a little bit of  noise in darker portions. Clarity tends to dissipate just a tad in the darker scenes as well, with some crush and grain looking just a little coarse.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

Great-Magician-BD_03

The original Mandarin soundtrack is offered in DTS-HD master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/16-bit) as well as lossy Dolby Digital 2.0. In addition, an English dub is provided in the same formats. The lossless 5.1 Mandarin track was my reference for the purposes of this review, and apart from some very minor grammatical errors in the English subtitles, the track was very enjoyable. There was a tight 360-degree soundfield, with a good balance of direct sounds across the front, and atmospherics and ambience in the surrounds. On occasion, the mix did become a bit dry, which was a little disappointing, and also made the discrete sounds in the surrounds stand out a bit more than they should have whenever they were applied. That said, dynamics were good, dialogue was clean, and the lows were robust.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:1/5]

Great-Magician-BD_04

A decent “making of” with lots of behind-the-scenes footage and face time with cast and crew is the only worthwhile supplement offered up on here.

The supplements:

  • Making the Magic (2.35:1; 1080p/24; 00:37:55)
  • Trailer (2.35:1; 1080p/24)

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:3.5/5]

Great-Magician-BD_05

A surprising, if a little uneven, change of pace for writer/director Yee Tung-Shing, The Great Magician features exemplary performances by Tony Leung, Lau Ching Wan, and even Zhou Xun more than holds her own here. It’s not a perfect film by any means, but it is certainly a fun ride.

Additional Screen Captures

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The Great Magician - Blu-ray Disc

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BestBuy.com:
The Great Magician - Blu-ray Disc

Purchase The Great Magician on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:3/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:1/5]

 

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