Battle of Wits [UK] Blu-ray Review
- Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080p/24
- Audio Codec: Chinese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, PCM Stereo 2.0
- Subtitles: English
- Region: ABC (Region-Free)
- Discs: 1
- Studio: Metrodome
- Release Date: December 26, 2008
- List Price: ₤24.99
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O, the perils of they that try to quash the wars that rage eternal in men’s hearts! The 2006 film, Battle of Wits, based on the Japanese comic Bokkō examines the strategies of war, its pitfalls, and the futility of one seeking peace in a world bent on its opposite. A period piece set during the Warring States Period of China, director Jacob Cheung’s epic film is an intense costume drama that not only delves into the intrigue and strategies of the battlefield, but the capriciousness of loyalty and power.
The fictitious city-state Zhao has come to pummel the weakened city of Liang, teetering on destructing, when a Mohist comes to help them defend them. The follower of Mozi, Ge Li (Andy Lau), with his dichotomy of universal love and keen strategies of war, finds a throng of instant followers in the downtrodden city of Liang, which is facing humiliation at the hands of its enemy, seeing that Ge Li can not only help defeat their enemy, but raise the spirits of the people.
Even the King’s (Zhiwen Wang) son, Prince Liang Shi (Si Won Choi) becomes enthralled with the stalwart commitment that Ge Li shows to his Mohist beliefs and his acumen for war. The Liang King’s beautiful ward herself, Liang Cavalry Chief Yi Yue (Bingbing Fan), falls in love with Ge Li and his nearly Spartan commitment to self-denial, justice, and universal love. But, all is not well in the kingdom. Driving back the Zhao and winning the love of the people serves only to raise the ire of the King of the Liang, leaving him suspicious that Ge Li has come to weaken his control over his people and take his thrown.
Battle of Wits is filled with sprawling imagery of the Chinese battlefields, but it doesn’t stop there. It is far more than simply men playing dress up. It truly is an intellectual battle and a discussion of philosophy. Though Cheung’s film never falls into preaching, it is clear from the beginning that Battle of Wits seeks to define what drives men to kill each other and where the line is that distinguishes murder from self-preservation.
It is a film about violence, love, and retribution, and the violence of love, more than it is simply a film about violence. Even when it falters under its less-than-perfect CGI special effects, it is a film that lingers in the corner of the mind, always questioning; that’s always a good thing.
Andy Lau and Bingbing Fan put on superb performances under the eye of director Tony Cheung in this Asian Spartacus, making this film an even better watch; highly recommended.
With its 2.35:1 AVC/MPEG-4 1080p/24 encoding from Metrodome, Battle of Wits arrives on Blu-ray disc with a transfer that does indeed look film-like and free from any sort of edge enhancement, haloing, or macroblocking, but the dull color palette, harsh grain and overexposed image make for a flat looking presentation. Although there is very strong shadow detail in Battle of Wits, the fact that blacks tend to look so washed out and noisy doesn’t help in the overall scheme. Flesh tones also show a little red push.
Battle of Wits redeems itself with an engaging DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack that engulfs the listener in a total 360-degree soundscape that has a wide yet tolerable dynamic range. Arrows fly overhead, cavalry gallop through the room and the subwoofer gets a good workout the entire time. They aren’t howling, but they extend down quite low and are balanced nicely into the mix. Dialogue is clean and audible even during the wildest scenes.
Battle of Wits is a bit anemic in the supplemental area, coming only with a “making of” documentary and two trailers, all in standard definition.
The supplements available on this release are:
- The Making of Battle of Wits (1.33:1; PAL) — In this detailed “making of,” actor Andy Lau talks about his role in the film and director Jacob Cheung discusses his work on putting together Battle of Wits. This featurette offers step-by-step behind-the-scenes footage of the entire production.
- International Trailer (1.33:1; PAL)
- UK Trailer (2.35:1; PAL)
The Definitive Word
Hong Kong Cinema has never had a huge market here in the United States, but with films like Battle of Wits out there, it’s a shame that these films are not more popular and more prevalent. The Blu-ray falters a bit under heavy scrutiny of its picture quality, but the audio quality more than makes up for it and so does the quality of the film itself.