BLU-RAY REVIEW: Legend of the Black Scorpion
Classic 2006 wuxia film hits hi-def home video…
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For decades fans of martial arts and swordplay have looked to the East for a plethora of fantasy films. However, the last decade has been stock full of wuxia – or martial arts adventure, be it stories of mysticism like 2001’s Legend of Zu or epic romances like 2000’s Academy-award winner Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Now, thanks to Dragon Dynasty, fans of wuxia can add 2006’s Legend of the Black Scorpion (aka The Banquet) to their blu-ray home library.
While many foreign martial arts films find their basis in legend or myth, Legend of the Black Scorpion finds its origin in 16th century Europe and Shakespeare’s Hamlet. That said, unlike many wuxia films, this one relies less on martial arts action to captivate viewers and instead focuses more on the interesting characters and engaging drama…though that’s not to say there’s not any martial arts. In fact, Legend of the Black Scorpion features some of the most beautifully choreographed and fluid fighting scenes captured on film thanks to The Matrix fight choreographer Yuen Woo-ping.
Other notables include the art direction by Academy Award winner Timmy Yip, whose designs here perfectly capture the story and era and make it near impossible to take one’s eyes away from the screen. The film’s director, Feng Xiaogang, strives for excellence from the cast, which includes well known wuxia actress Ziyi Zhang as well as You Ge, Daniel Wu, and Xun Zhou.
The blu-ray release features a beautiful 1080p picture in the film’s native 2.45:1 aspect ratio. The bright, bold colors beautifully grace the screen with little issue. Likewise, the disc features two Mandarin audio tracks, both a Dolby Digital 5.1 track and a superior DTS-HD Master Audio track. The DTS-HD loss-less track especially captures the film’s moods, relaying both the dialogue, effects as well composer Tan Dun’s score.
As for special features, the disc includes an informative audio commentary track with Bey Logan and two interviews: the 20-minute “Master of Ceremonies: An Exclusive Interview with Director Feng Xiaogang” and the 23 minute “Warrior Prince: An Exclusive Interview with Leading Man Daniel Wu.” For those who prefer a more traditional “behind-the-scenes” type featurettes, the 40-minute “A Dynasty Uncovered: Behind the Scenes on 'Legend of the Black Scorpion'” features looks at the development and filming of the movie. Lastly, two trailers are also included.
While Legend of the Black Scorpion may not have been a Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, it is certainly as good as other more prestigious and well-known wuxia films such as 2000’s The Duel, 2004’s House of Flying Daggers, 2005’s The Promise, 2006’s Curse of the Golden Flower, or 2009’s The Storm Warriors.
Legend of the Black Scorpion is available on Blu-ray hi-def wherever fine home video is sold.
- Jess C. Horsley