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Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 28, 2014 by  



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“Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon” may not be in the same league as the first “Detective Dee” film, nor does it have a lot of superstar talent, but the prequel delivers in performance and an enjoyable, fun fantasy/mystery/action-driven storyline that makes you hope you see more adventures of Detective Dee in the near future.  “Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2013 Huayi Brothers Media Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon

FILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 134 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:77:1 aspect ratio), Mandarin Stereo and 5.1 DTS-HD Mater Audio, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: February 11, 2014

Directed by Hark Tsui

Written by Chia-lu Chang, Kuo-fu Chen, Hark tsui

Executive Producer: Bak-Ming Wong

Music by Kenji Kawai

Cinematography by Chi Ying chan

Edited by Drew Thompson

Production Design by Kenneth Mak

Starring:

Marc Chao as Dee Renjie

Feng Shaofeng as Yuchi Zhenjin

Lin Genxin as Shatuo Zhong

Kim Bum as Yuan Zhen

Angelababy as Yin Ruiji

Carina Lau as Empress Wu Zetian

From legendary action director Tsui Hark and the creators of international smash hit DETECTIVE DEE: MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME comes the captivating tale of Dee Renjie s beginnings in the Imperial police force. His very first case, investigating reports of a sea monster terrorizing the town, reveals a sinister conspiracy of treachery and betrayal, leading to the highest reaches of the Imperial family.

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In 2010, Tsui Hark’s “Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame” was released in theaters.

Starring Andy Lau, Carina Lau, Li Bing Bing and Tony Leung Ka-fai and featuring Sammo Hung as fight choreographer, the film would be considered as one of the best films of 2010 in China and “Time Magazine” would rank it as the third best film of 2011.

The film would ensure another film and in 2013, a prequel was created titled “Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon” featuring Taiwanese-Canadian actor/singer/model Mark Chao in the main character role of a younger Dee Renjie.  And while the film would feature the return of Carina Lau, the film would also star Feng Shaofeng, Lin Gengxin, South Korean actor Kim Bum and Angelababy.

“Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon” would go on to earn over $98 million in the box office and now the film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in Feb. 2014 courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

The film would begins with a group of soldiers in a boat being attacked by a sea monster.

Because of the number of casualties, Empress Wu (portrayed by Carina Lau) has Chief Minister Yuchi Zhenjin of Da Lisi find and kill the monster and if he doesn’t solve this problem in ten days, she will have him executed.

Meanwhile, a young Dee Renjie (portrayed by Marc Chao) at the Imperial Capital, meanwhile he is noticed by Detective Yuchi (portrayed by Feng Shaofeng).

We learn that Dee Renjie is very smart.  Has the ability to read lips, has a photographic memory and catches a group of thugs discussing how they are planning to kidnap the courtesan, Yin Ruiji (portrayed by Angelababy).

Wanting to save her,Dee steals a detective badge and a horse to come to her rescue.  But while he goes to rescue her, Detective Yuchi and his men of the Da Lisi are curious why Dee is riding erratically and they all pursue him.

As Yin Ruiji is to meet an elder, the criminals manage to have poison fumes envelop the whole place and manage to kill the guards and the host and leaving everyone else unconscious, including Yin Ruiji.  As they try to kidnap her, Dee arrives in time and tries to fight each of them.  But as he is trapped in a metal container, out of nowhere comes a sea monster who kidnaps Yin and defeats most the criminals.

As Detective Yuchi and his men arrive, Dee has gone in pursuit of the sea monster who is trying to escape with Yin Ruiji underwater, while Yuchi and the Da Lisi take on the criminals.

With brilliant thinking, Dee manages to take back Yin Ruiji but because Dee tried to impersonate a Da Lisi and took their horse, he is imprisoned.

Dee manages to catch the attention of Shatuo Zhong (portrayed by Lin Genxin), a young prison doctor by telling him things about Shatuo’s personal life and that he will reveal them unless, Shatuo helps him out.  And the two come with a plan that they will pretend that Dee has some contagious virus that needs to be studied and eventually helps Dee escape.

Meanwhile, Detective Yuchi takes Yin Ruiji to a protected place and while they stand guard, the sea monster comes to meet with Yin Ruiji and she realizes the monster is her beloved that had gone missing.  She finds out that he has been poisoned somehow.

But as the sea monster tries to talk with her, a group of men in costume and masks begin attacking and manage to kill a lot of the Da Lisi, with the exception of Detective Yuchi who tries to fight back.

Dee and Shatuo manage to arrive and save Yuchi, but also hearing the men talk in their native language and deducing of where the attackers are from.  Meanwhile, learning from Yin Ruiji of what has happened, Dee, Shatuo, Yin try to find out why those men were after the sea monster but also how her beloved turned into a monster.

But for Detective Yuchi, he is not sure whether Dee is friend or foe and goes after him?  Also, thinking that perhaps Dee may be after his position and causing a bit of jealousy between the two men.

Will Dee or Detective Yuchi solve the tale of who is responsible for creating the sea monster and also who have created the sea monster in the sea?

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VIDEO:

“Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:77:1 aspect ratio).  While watching the film, the first thing you will notice is how there are a lot of CG elements to the film, some that look a bit too video game looking and often doesn’t go well with the more modern scenery.  The other is the use of objects blasting away, you feel the intent for such scenes was for 3D and made me wonder if the original film was released in China/Hong Kong in 3D.

But aside from the CG elements which have varying results in realism, the fight choreography for the film was stellar, the picture quality was very good and showed plenty of detail.  May it be clothing, the bumps and ripples on chains, the clarity and colors looked very good in HD and for the most part, the film featured natural skin tones and cinematography was beautiful.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon” is presented in Mandaring 5.1 DTS- HD MA and Stereo.  Dialogue and special effects are crystal clear but there are scenes with good use of the surround channels, during the action-scenes or ambiance.  The sea monster (in sea) actually provided for good LFE and gave a good rumble and for the most part, the lossless soundtrack was very good.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon” comes with a trailer.

EXTRAS:

“Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon” comes with a slipcover.

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For “Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon”, it’s hard to follow up a film that received critical acclaim.

The original film had star power and a solid storyline but of course, using top talent comes with a price and so, instead of a sequel, we get a prequel without Andy Lau but with actor Marc Chao.

At first I was a bit hesitant if the prequel would be as good as the first but if any director is competent in making a solid action film, let alone bringing the best out of his actors, filmmaker Tsui Hark (“Once Upon a Time in China I and II”, “Flying Swords of Dragon Gate”, “Seven Swords”) is the person you want directing your film.

And while the concept of a huge beast knocking down boats in the sea or a man turned into a sea monster may be a bit too farfetched, there is no doubt that the prequel “Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon”, combines fantasy elements with fighting action that you have come to love in a Tsui Hark film.

The good news is the film is captivating, the story is entertaining and for the most part, Mark Chao and Feng Shaofeng  do a very good job.  Dee Renjie is still the smart and fascinating character and enjoyed how the film’s storyline was able to utilize his intelligence when managing to solve cases or to read people and use those situations to aid him in his investigation.

Feng Shaofeng is the hot-heated detective that does a fantastic job with fight choreography as he is the character you will often see in the middle of fights.

Lin Gengxin plays the humorous sidekick of Dee named Shatuo Zhong, a prison doctor and also one who is shy in being around women, while Angelababy is beautiful as ever.

But the connection to the original film is actress Carina Lau, as the steel cold Empress Wu.

If anything, it’s the fantasy/mystery action story that captivates you.  The plot  was fascinating, despite CG elements looking too videogame like and of course, the over-the-top farfetched characters and other storyline elements, but I found this film to be rather entertaining and a whole lot of fun!

While the Blu-ray release looks great in HD and also has a solid lossless soundtrack, unfortunately there are no special features included.  It would have been great to have special features and interviews with the talent, so aside from the trailer, it’s a barebones Blu-ray release.

Overall, “Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon” may not be in the same league as the first “Detective Dee” film, nor does it have a lot of superstar talent, but the prequel delivers in performance and an enjoyable, fun fantasy/mystery/action-driven storyline that makes you hope you see more adventures of Detective Dee in the near future.

“Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon” is recommended!

 

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