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Wu Dang (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 20, 2012 by  



As a martial arts film, “Wu Dang” is awesome! But as a sci-fi film, it becomes the film’s weakness along with cartoonish CG animation, questionable casting and an overboard storyline.  While I did have some issues with the film, I did enjoy “Wu Dang” for its action and fight choreography and its cinematography and the film does look impressive on Blu-ray!  But if you love over-the-top martial arts action films, then “Wu Dang” is for you!

Images courtesy of © 2012 Mei Ah Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Wu Dang

THEATRICAL RELEASE: 2012

DURATION: 131 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16:9 Widescreen),Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Mandarin Dolby Digital Stereo, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: November 13, 2012

Directed by Patrick Leung

Produced by Kwok Lam Sin, Patrick Tong

Executive Produced by Kuo Hsing Li, Charley Zhuo

Music by Kin Law

Cinematography by Tony Cheung

Edited by Ka-Fai Cheung

Starring:

Vincent Zhao as Professor/Dr. Tang Yunlong

Yang Mi as Tianxin

Xu Jiao (Josie Xu) as Ning

Fan Siu-wong as Shui Heiyi

Shaun Tam as Paul Chen

Dennis To as Bailong

There is a rumor:  secret treasures hide in Wu Dang mountain. In the early days of Republican China, an American man – greedy for gold and hungry for riches – brings his daughter, a prodigy in martial arts, to compete for a championship title in kung fu combat, while planning to find and steal the riches for himself.  It won’t be easy. Fierce competition, dedicated protectors, and unexpected romance block the path to the Wu Dang fortune, and when the true nature of the prize is discovered – everything you know about martial arts will change forever.

From the director of “The Twins Effect” and “La Brassiere” comes the sci-fi martial arts film “Wu Dang”.

“Wu Dang” is reference to the Wudang mountains in the northwester part of Hubei Province in China, where a Taoist monastery resides.  The martial arts film features action choreographed by Corey Yuen (“The Transporter”) and will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in the U.S. courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

The film would star Vincent Zhao (“Another Meltdown”, “The Blade”), Yang Mi (“Painted Skin: Resurrection”, “The Bullet Vanishes”, “Love in the Buff”), Siu-Wong Fan (“Ip Man”, “Ip Man 2”, “The Legend is Born: Ip Man”) and Jiao Xu (“Starry Starry Night”, “Future X Cops”, “CJ7”).

“Wu Dang” begins with a professor, Dr. Tang (portrayed by Vincent Zhao) and his young teenage daughter Ning (portrayed by Xu Jiao) arriving to inspect a treasured sword that supposedly originated from the Wudang mountains.  Upon inspecting the sword, as  the seller, a gangster named Paul Chen (portrayed by Shaun Tam) is hoping to make a lot of money, he looks at the swords box which contains a map of where the seven treasures are located and reveals that the treasured sword that the seller had is a fake.  This leads to the seller trying to kill the Dr., but he manages to escape with the map.

Meanwhile, high above in the sky is a female fighter named Tianxin (portrayed by Yang Mi), who is a trained fighter that steals a fighting invitation in order to go to Wu Dang and search for a sword that her father had died looking for in the area.

With both Dr. Tang and his daughter Ning, who is to fight at the martial arts tournament in the Wu Dang mountains, so is Tianxin.   Meanwhile, a Wu Dang disciple named Shui Heiyi (portrayed by Fan Siu-Wong) has joined the monastery in order to care for his mother who is unable to walk and is ill. Because of Shui Heiyi’s good nature, he has been selected to participate in the martial arts tournament to represent Wu Dang.  Shui Heiyi has no confidence in his sleeping kung-fu style but his master believes he can win the tournament.

As martial artists from various location compete, Dr. Tang uses his off-time to plan his heist of the seven treasures, while Tianxin plans to find the sword which belongs to her family.  As Ning fights, he is reminded by her father that if the person is too good, to quit. Meanwhile, as Dr. Tang watches Tianxin’s fighting style, he knows that she can be a deadly competitor.

Late at night, Dr. Tang goes out to look for one of the seven treasures, as does Tianxin.  Ning sees her father sneaking out in disguise and goes to follow him.  When she goes to ask her father about what he is doing, the person in disguise is actually Tianxin and scares Ning to the point that she falls off the cliff but fortunately a tree is there to break her fall and she lands on top of the home of Shui Heiyi, who is caring for his mother.

When Shui Heiyi is shocked to see Ning fall and break his roof, his mother sees it as a sign and thinks that Ning could be his young wife.

Suffice to say, with Shi Heiyi helping Ning, the two become very close. And as for Dr. Tang and Tianxin, both feel they can help each other with their goals.  Dr. Tang, to find the sword for Tianxin, and Tianxin help Dr. Tang find the other treasures.  As Tang and Tianxin work together, both also find an attraction towards each other.

And as both work to find all seven treasures, in their way is gangster Paul Chen and Bailong (portrayed by Dennis To) who has seen both Dr. Tang and Tianxin in disguises and oversees the tournament.

But what is the motivation of Dr. Tang trying to steal all these treasures, why his young daughter is competing in a martial arts tournament and why is the sword so important to Tianxin?

VIDEO:

“Wu Dang” is presented in 16:9 Widescreen and I have to say that the film looks great when trying to feature the temple and fighting arena in the Wu Dang mountains.  The fighting choreography is captured amazingly well by cinematographer Tony Cheung (“The Legend of Drunk Master”, “Black Mask”, “Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon”).

The picture quality for the most part is very good and looks fantastic on Blu-ray with natural skin tones, black levels nice and deep and no sign of artifacts or banding.  But while the film and the martial arts are captured amazingly well, its problem lies with its use of science fiction.  Just when you are getting into the film and the fighting and how beautiful the fighting choreography is, you are then greeted with sci-fi elements that don’t work well with the film.  One treasure that Dr. Tang must find is a special plant/root that manages to come alive and I just felt this was out of place with the entire film.

And then by the film, you have a martial arts antagonist who tries to gain more power and we see laser lights and visual effects that really hinder the film.  Personally, I don’t think the CG elements were needed for this martial arts action film, considering it was doing well without it for the first 75 minutes of the film, but somehow the director/writer felt it necessary to make this martial arts film with sci-fi elements towards the end.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Wu Dang” is presented in Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Mandarin Dolby Digital Stereo.  Dialogue is crisp and clear but the film sounds great when it comes to its martial arts action scenes and during the lightning storm.  While not an entirely immersive film, there is good use of sound effects and also music courtesy of Kin Law (“Fighting For Love”, “DragonBlade”, Du Xia 1999″).  But overall, the lossless soundtrack was good.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Wu Dang” comes with the following special features:

  • Behind the Scenes – (31:12) Behind-the-scenes of “Wu Dang”, featuring interviews with the filmmaker and cast.
  • Trailer – (1:33) Theatrical trailer for “Wu Dang”

“Wu Dang” is a film that had a lot of potential.  At first glance, you wonder if the film would be a Indiana Jones type of film with martial arts action.

But then the film tries so hard to include emotional and sci-fi aspects to the film that it literally hinders it.

For example, I found the father and daughter relationship to be cool. Dad has taught his daughter to fight in martial arts and now she is competing.   No problem.

But then the film tries to make the older Shui Heiyi (portrayed by Fan Siu-Wong) as a romantic interest.  This is where you know casting went wrong.  Perhaps if the film cast an 18-year-old, the film would be a bit more plausible than seeing a 13-year-old actress.

The father/daughter aspect of the film works because it’s a pure relationship of a daughter who wants to be close with her father.  You later realize that the reason why they are close is because something is going on with Ning (which I don’t want to spoil for those who haven’t seen the film.).  T

But this situation makes you ask the the question of how can a father let his young daughter compete in a martial arts tournament while he goes treasure hunting?  The story does at least answer the importance of the father searching this treasure but at the same time, it’s like borrowing a page from the sci-fi elements of the fourth “Indiana Jones” film which really hindered that film.

The ancient artifacts tied to some supernatural element has been done before but with “Wu Dang” it becomes damaging to this film because the sci-fi elements really make this film from cool, over-the-top martial arts film to cheesy martial arts film with cool action. One scene features Dr. Tang and Tianxin going after this magical root creature which was bad when it comes to special effects.  It really seemed out of place for this film!

So, sci-fi plus a romantic interest between older Fan Siu-wong and younger Xu Jiao doesn’t seem right at all.  And it was a shame because the fighting choreography and the cinematography for those fight scenes were cool to watch.  I also enjoyed actress Mini Yang’s involvement with the film, as I see her with the potential to become a major star in Asian cinema.  Vincent Zhao also did a wonderful job playing the main action lead as well.

But unfortunately with questionable casting, cheesy sci-fi visual effects and also, upsetting, the ending doesn’t even show what happens to Fan Siu-Wong’s character after building him up in the film.

While the Blu-ray showcases the awesome PQ and of “Wu Dang” and definitely gives a node to past martial arts films and also really cool AQ at times during the more action-intense or weather-related scenes.  And the Blu-ray does include your behind-the-scenes featurette and theatrical trailer.

Overall, as a martial arts film, “Wu Dang” is awesome! But as a sci-fi film, it becomes the film’s weakness along with cartoonish CG animation, questionable casting and an overboard storyline.  While I did have some issues with the film, I did enjoy “Wu Dang” for its action and fight choreography and its cinematography and the film does look impressive on Blu-ray!  But if you love over-the-top martial arts action films, then “Wu Dang” is for you!






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