(aka ''Hero' or 'Ying xiong')

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/direct-chair/zhang.htm
China 2002

Zhang Yimou’s latest feature film “Hero” is a box office phenomenon in China and also the most costly Asian film ever made tipping the scales at about 240 million HK$. It would immediately spark comparisons to Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” for aggressive use of the absurdist martial arts ballet sequences with all but the remnants of supporting wires gracefully floating fiery combatants of a duel. Asian cinema has been producing these extravaganzas for years prior to “Crouching Tiger...” but many western audiences garnered their first exposure with Lee’s action infused soap opera.

Posters (click to enlarge)

 

Theatrical Release Date: October 24th, 2002 - China (premiere)

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Comparison:

Miramax - Region 1- NTSC vs. Elite Group (Japan - 2 disc) Region 2 - NTSC vs. Miramax - Region FREE- Blu-ray

Big thanks to Chris Gould, Donald Brown, and  Ole Kofoed of DVD-Basen for the DVD Caps!

1) Miramax - Region 1- NTSC LEFT
2) Elite Group (Japan) - Region 2 - NTSC - MIDDLE
3) Miramax - Region FREE - Blu-ray - RIGHT
 
DVD Box Covers

 

Distribution

Miramax

Region 1 - NTSC

Elite Group

Region 2  - NTSC

Miramax

Region FREE - Blu-ray

 

Distribution

Miramax

Region 1 - NTSC

Elite Group

Region 2  - NTSC

Miramax

Region FREE - Blu-ray

Runtime 1:39:03 1:38:36 1:39:12.154
Video

2.31:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 7.77 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

2.35:1 Original Aspect Ratio 16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 8.5 mb/s
NTSC 704x480 29.97 f/s

1080P / 23.976 fps Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 35,846,493,226 bytes

Feature: 35,846,493,226 bytes

Video Bitrate: 37.47 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes

Bitrate:

 

Miramax

 

    

Bitrate:

 

 Elite Group

           

Bitrate:

 

Blu-ray

           

Audio Mandarin DTS 5.1, Mandarin Dolby Digital Surround Sound, English dub, French dub Dolby Digital 5.1 Mandarin (448Kbps) & DUB: Japanese, DTS 5.1 Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio English 4200
kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 4200 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio Chinese 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio French 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Audio Descriptive: Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / Dolby Surround
Subtitles English, English for the hearing impaired, Spanish, none Japanese, English, Traditional Chinese and none English, English for the hearing impaired, Spanish, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Miramax

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.31:1

Edition Details:
• HERO Defined (making of documentary) (24:02)
• Storyboards
• Inside the Action: A Conversation with Quentin Tarantino and Jet Li (13:56)
• Soundtrack Spot

DVD Release Date: Nov. 30, 2004
Keepcase

Chapters 14

 

Release Information:
Distributor: Elite Group

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.35:1



Discographic Information:
DVD Encoding: Region 2 - NTSC

Edition Details:
Disc 1, Interviews (no English subs)

Disc 2 - behind-the-scenes extras, including making-of, interviews & press footage shot in Japan, Japan premiere, location map, classic scenes, trailer(s) & TV spot(s),
 

DVD Release Date: January 23rd, 2004
Gatefold inside slipcase and presentation box
Chapters: 24

 

NOTE: No English Menus

NOTE: No Extras on either disc are subtitled in English

Release Information:
Studio: Miramax

 

1080P / 23.976 fps Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 35,846,493,226 bytes

Feature: 35,846,493,226 bytes

Video Bitrate: 37.47 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Edition Details:
• Close-up of a Fight Scene (9:18)

• HERO Defined (making of documentary) (24:01)
• Storyboards
• Inside the Action: A Conversation with Quentin Tarantino and Jet Li (13:55)
• Soundtrack Spot

Digital Copy

Blu-ray Release Date:
September 15th, 2009
Standard Blu-ray Case inside cardboard sleeve

Chapters 14

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION Miramax Blu-ray - August 2009: We've previously compared 6 different DVD editions of Zhang Yimou's Hero HERE, including the Buena Vista - Region 2- PAL and Guang Dong Face Video Chinese Extended SE versions. From that we determined that the Miramax Region 1 DVD and the Elite Japanese were of the better quality. We decided to compare the new Blu-ray to those two strong SD-DVD editions.

Menus starts on the Blu-ray with the options of English, French, Spanish or Chinese. I usually expect a barrage of previews but, after choosing 'English', thankfully a menu for the film immediately comes up and we can launch right into the film...

Image comments: Detail improves but not as notably as the colors - especially reds. This is most visible in the garment worn by Moon (Zhang Ziyi) in her fight with Flying Snow (Maggie Cheung) and the soldiers flags - see images below. The 1080P resolution achieves deep 'red' - not the faded to orangey that the SD transfers export. The Miramax Blu-ray can looks thick and saturated at times. Often though, black levels don't seem as pronounced as one might have anticipated. It's not as crisp as some may have desired and grain, especially in background visuals, has a clunkier look - less smooth than we usually see. Contrast does improve throughout most of the film. Surprisingly the Japanese Elite still often shows, varyingly, more information on all 4 edges. I don't see edge-enhancement on the 1080P transfer but DNR is evident with the noise-to-grain ratio more hampered and inconsistent. Other editions of this film report the master as being very grain-heavy (German HD-DVD and French Blu-ray). There is not much of a dimensional appearance in the Blu-ray beyond the two DVDs. As Hero is so focused on the 4 primary colors used - the improvement in this area is welcome.

 

Audio: This is a flaw - the DTS-HD Master 5.1 at 4200 kbps is wonderfully dynamic and strong - but it is only for the English DUB! The original Mandarin Chinese audio is relegated to a 640 kbps at 5.1. So, they give the DUB a lossless HD and the film's original audio isn't even rate DTS. Bad decision Miramax. I almost prefer the 'descriptive' track with a posh British accent describing details on the screen with the Mandarin dialogue in the background. In my opinion, after watching the film with the original audio, with subtitles, - Hero with DUBs is practically unwatchable. The Mandarin 5.1 is still impressive at times - especially with the sword sounds of the 'Nameless' and 'Sky' fight and the booming of the soldier's massive movements. It has separation but I'd still have loved this in HD. What a shame. There are optional subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide. 

Still no commentary and the only 'new' extra is the 9-minute SD piece - 'Close-up of a Fight Scene'. It has minor input from Tarantino, Donnie Yen, Jet Li describing the Yen's involvement and the two-week timeframe it took to film the entire fight scene. The rest of the supplements are duplicated from the previous DVDs including the 25-minute HERO Defined - making of documentary, Storyboards, the 13-minute Inside the Action: A Conversation with Quentin Tarantino and Jet Li and the Soundtrack Spot. The Bonus features are in 2.0 channel with optional subtitles. You also get D-Box (Motion Code Data) and a digital copy for use with portable devices. 

I'm disappointed about the audio and was hoping the video would rise a notch or two beyond what it has but it is still the best looking of the three although I still like the Elite with its softer palette but suspect that the new dual-layered Miramax is the closest to the theatrical. I had not seen Hero for a while and it's such a visual spectacle that it benefits from the HD treatment. Despite this being region free - I'll still maintain some hope that it will be released on Blu-ray by another distributor paying greater respect to the original audio and the film's heavy grain. It seems evident that the film is one of those that is more problematic for transfer to home theater digital presentations. This, visually, may very well be as good as it gets...        

- Gary W. Tooze

NOTE: The translated Opening and Closing text is HERE.

 


Recommended Reading in Chinese/Hong Kong/Taiwanese Cinema (CLICK COVERS or TITLES for more information)

Check out more in "The Library"


DVD Menus


Miramax - Region 1- NTSC MIDDLE vs. Elite Group (Japan) - Region 2 - NTSC RIGHT)
 

 

 

9-minute featurette on the Blu-ray - 'Close-up of a Fight Scene'

 

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Subtitle Samples

 

1) Miramax - Region 1- NTSC TOP
2) Elite Group (Japan) - Region 2 - NTSC - MIDDLE
3) Miramax - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM
 


Screen Captures

 
1) Miramax - Region 1- NTSC TOP
2) Elite Group (Japan) - Region 2 - NTSC - MIDDLE
3) Miramax - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM
 

1) Miramax - Region 1- NTSC TOP
2) Elite Group (Japan) - Region 2 - NTSC - MIDDLE
3) Miramax - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM
 

 


1) Miramax - Region 1- NTSC TOP
2) Elite Group (Japan) - Region 2 - NTSC - MIDDLE
3) Miramax - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM
 

 


1) Miramax - Region 1- NTSC TOP
2) Elite Group (Japan) - Region 2 - NTSC - MIDDLE
3) Miramax - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM
 

 


1) Miramax - Region 1- NTSC TOP
2) Elite Group (Japan) - Region 2 - NTSC - MIDDLE
3) Miramax - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM
 

 


1) Miramax - Region 1- NTSC TOP
2) Elite Group (Japan) - Region 2 - NTSC - MIDDLE
3) Miramax - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM
 

1) Miramax - Region 1- NTSC TOP
2) Elite Group (Japan) - Region 2 - NTSC - MIDDLE
3) Miramax - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM
 

NOTE: This exact frame cannot be found on the Extended version. So it is possible that some other segments have been eliminated or replaced.


1) Miramax - Region 1- NTSC TOP
2) Elite Group (Japan) - Region 2 - NTSC - MIDDLE
3) Miramax - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM
 

More Blu-ray Captures

 


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Report Card:

 

Image:

Blu-ray

Sound:

Blu-ray (but...)

Extras: Blu-ray
Menu: Elite Group (outrageously animated)



 

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Gary Tooze

Many Thanks...