October 29, 2012

Blu-ray Review: Legendary Amazons

Legendary Amazons is a historical epic from director Frankie Chan, backed with the star power of Jackie Chan. Unfortunately, this time out Jackie isn't acting, rather, he is filling the role of producer. Something tells me the movie would have been better had Jackie's mug appeared onscreen instead of just the credits. You see, the movie provides some moments of entertainment, but for the most part feels flat and lifeless.

The movie follows in the footsteps of other recent epics like White Vengeance and South Korean export War of the Arrows. What makes Legendary Amazons stand out is that it take a much looser approach to the actual history behind it. The movie is a bit over the top and melodramatic than its much more strait laced brethren. In some ways this is a breath of fresh air, but more often than not it just feels silly.

Legendary Amazons follows in the footsteps of the 1972 Shaw Brothers production 14 Amazons. The Song Dynasty is a war with the Western Xia. The war is fierce and results in the devastating loss of all of the men. This does not bode well for the future of the Song Dynasty.

The women, now widows, learn of their loss by the arrival of a messenger pigeon bearing a lock of hair of the army's general, Yang Zongbao (Richie Ren). The message was received by his wife Mui Guiying (Cecelia Cheung). Rather than fold up camp and give up, she and the family matriarch, She Saihua (Cheng Pei-pei), choose to start up a new army comprised of the widows.

So, with the leadership of the last remaining man, Yang Wenguang (Xiao Ming Yu), the women head off for battle. They fight for their lives, they fight to fend off heir enemies, they fight to get revenge. It is too bad the movie is played bigger and broader than it likely should be.

Legendary Amazons, on paper, looks like it should be a winner. The cast has numerous veterans, the director has made good films in the past, and the real life story seems perfect for the big screen. It is hard for me to really say where it went wrong. I mean, it is not completely unwatchable, but it feels like they were not completely sure of how to approach the story. On top of that, the production quality is not all that great and is filled with sequences of poor green screen work.

The movie just feels uninspired and more intent on creating a spectacle rather than authenticity. I have certainly seen worse. The movie is petty straightforward and manages to pack in a lot of action, so, if nothing else, you won't get bored. Instead of boredom, you may simply wish that what you were watching showed more inspiration.

Audio/Video. The film is presented in a ratio of 2.35:1 and generally looks pretty good. The film was shot digitally on the Red One camera. Colors are bright and vivid and detail is retained well through the numerous action sequences. Close ups show great detail throughout the costumes. The major issues crop up when there are green screen elements in play where the believability factor is called into question, but this more of an issue with the filming technique than the transfer.

Audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 flavors and in both the original Mandarin and English dub. The dub is decent, but the original language is always the way to go. The surrounds are quite active during he battle sequences, making you feel as if you are right there in the middle of everything. Everything is crisp, clean, and bright. It is a very strong mix.

Bottomlime. Certainly not the best I could have been, but it is a little fun with the green screen, the declarative fashion the dialogue, and plentiful action bits to keep it moving along. Still, I cannot exactly recommend it, it is predictable and convoluted at the same time. It is modestly entertaining but not terribly memorable.

Not Recommended.

Article first published as Blu-ray Review: Legendary Amazons on Blogcritics.

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