Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Review

Phil Gardner has reviewed the Region 2 DVD release of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

This review of the Region 2 release of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, is intended to offer the reader a comprehensive and detailed comparison to the Region 3 release, already reviewed by DVD Times. For those of you unfamiliar with the Region 3 release, please check out Simon Wyndham’s excellent review here and use that in conjunction with this review.

The Film

Simon’s review has already taken a look at this marvelous film, so I will not waste too much of your time discussing it here.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (CTHD) has to be right up there with the most eagerly awaited titles this year. Indeed, if you take a look at most DVD online stores you will see it in the top ten best sellers for pre-order titles. The Region 3 release caused a storm when people from around the world clamored to get hold of a copy way before it’s release date, knowing that the Region 2 release was months away in the distance.

When some people talk about CTHD the following exclamations are often thrown around ‘ breath-taking’, ‘fantastic fight sequences’ ‘Spectacular’ and ‘Jaw dropping – high flying action’ and while these are fairly valid descriptions of this film, CTHD is way and above just a spectacular fight movie. What people seem to miss out is that this film is an enchanting, beautiful and moving experience. In some ways, it is the more subtle sequences that will take your breath away, rather than the visually impressive ones.

Whichever form of description your personal taste favors, there is one common theme that will underlie them all, and that is that CTHD is one remarkable and highly enjoyable experience.

Miss it, and miss out.

The Disc

Picture – The film is presented in it’s correct Aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is Anamorphic. But while the transfer generally looks excellent, as you would expect with a modern film, it is still a little disappointing. It suffers with some obvious signs of digital processing along the straight edges, giving some scenes an almost watery look to them. While this is noticeable, it is not so distracting as to spoil your enjoyment. In addition, some minor film debris is present throughout, though more noticeable at the beginning of the film. It is a shame that this transfer has these minor problems because apart from these the film does look quite splendid.

Sound – The film comes with an atmospheric Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, and while not exactly impressive, it is perfectly acceptable. The film features a lot of dialogue intensive scenes and it is only during the impressive action scenes that the 5.1 soundtrack kicks in to any degree. While this is in no way a reference piece, it does subtly add to the viewer’s enjoyment and brings the films musical score across nicely.

R2 vs. R3: Picture & Sound – Identical.

OK, some people will favour the R2 release for the timeless arguments about Pal Vs NTSC – But, after comparing the two versions using one specific chapter as a reference point, it was perfectly apparent to me that they looked and played as near as damn it identical, with each of them displaying the digital processing problems noted above.

Menu System – All the Menu Screens are slightly animated and look quite nice, but hidden behind this, lies a crouching flaw, which is far worse than that pun, believe me! Whenever you select any of the menu’s options, before you are taken to that screen, a brief clip from the film is played. This totally ruins some of the films key action scenes and sequences if you have never seen the film before. It is the one thing that really spoils this disc – not only that but it quickly gets irritating as you have to wait for these clips to end to get to another menu. What may have seemed at the time, to be a good idea, really has backfired here.

The Scene Selection Menu is effective enough, though only 4 of the films 28 chapters are displayed at a time, making it a laborious chore to get access to a scene in the middle of the film.

R2 vs. R3: Practically identical.

The Menu systems are almost identical, except that the Region 2 release features an animated backdrop to the scene selection menu, where the Region 3 release is strangely static. In addition they seem to have tidied up the ‘selection cursor’ to look a little better on the eye. Chapter stops are also identical.

Easter Eggs – While reviewing this Region 2 test disc I could not find any hidden Easter Eggs, even though the menu systems do seem to have that ‘there’s something hidden here’ feel to them.

R2 vs. R3: Neither version appears to have any hidden Easter Eggs

The Extras

Now here is where the two regions really do differ. Firstly we will take a look at the Region 2 features and then take a comparison look at the end.

A Conversation with Michelle Yeoh – 13mins 48 seconds

This featurette gives the viewer a fascinating and in-depth interview with the beautiful Michelle Yeoh. This lengthy conversation features many behind the scenes sequences and moments form the film, as Michelle discusses her role and experiences of making this wonderful film at length. Essential viewing.

The Making of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – 20 mins 46 seconds

Bravo presents ‘Unleashing Dragons’ – The Making of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. A fairly standard feature though interesting and worthwhile nonetheless. Tagged on the end is the making of the soundtrack, which runs for some 4 mins. This plays more like an advert for the motion picture soundtrack and does repeat a little of what you would have seen before.

This feature is presented in Full frame, with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound and has a surprisingly crisp and excellent picture.

Audio Commentary by Ang Lee & James Schamus – Highly informative, interesting and fun to listen to – even though James Schamus does take the piss a little too often! I did wonder at one point, just how Ang Lee put up with him! A great commentary track that will really add to your enjoyment of the film.

Photo Montage – 6 mins 43 seconds

These Photo Montage extra features really do leave me thinking just what is the point. If you like this feature then fine, but in my opinion all this is really, is just some rather pointless padding.

Talent Files – 5 talent files for Ang Lee, Chow Yun Fat, Michelle Yeoh, James Schamus and Yuen Wo Ping

This section features some very disappointingly short biographies for each person, and is followed by their filmographies – not nearly enough information, but better than nothing I guess.

4 Theatrical Trailers:

US Trailer – (as included on the Region 3 release) Non-Anamorphic Widescreen, approx 1.85:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. This trailer is a little weak when compared to the International one. It features an American voice over, with English subtitles burned in for the on screen action.

International Trailer – Non-Anamorphic Widescreen, approx 1.85:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.
A very effective trailer with no voice over or dialogue, that is far superior to the US Trailer. Well worth taking a look – but it may well make you want to watch the film all over again! So be warned!

Vertical Limit – Presented in Anamorphic 1.85:1 along with a stunning, thumping Dolby 5.1 surround sound track.

Not One Less – Presented in Full Screen, with Dolby 2.0 sound.

Web-Link – via DVD-Rom.

Ok let’s take a look at the R3 vs. R2 Extra Features Comparison.

Firstly both have the Commentary Track, the Conversation with Michelle Yeoh, the Talent Files, the Photo Montage and the web-link.

The Region 3 version has only one Theatrical Trailer, where the Region 2 disc has four (2 Theatrical Trailers for CTHD, along with two trailers for other films).

The Region 3 disc has a Music Video, Coco Lee – A Love Before Time (presented in an English Language version and a Mandarin version, both run for 3 mins 48 seconds), the R2 does not have this feature. However, the R2 version does have a 20-minute making of documentary in place of these two music videos.

Additional Features people may be interested in are the Languages and Subtitles and how they differ across the two regions.

Firstly, the R3 release has the following 4 language tracks: English & Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 along with Cantonese & Thai Dolby Digital 2.0. The R2 version only has 2 language tracks: English & Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1

The R3 release has the following subtitles available: English, Korean, Chinese and Thai. The R2 release has 11: English, Polish, Hungarian, Czech, Turkish, Portuguese, Hebrew, Hindi, Bulgarian, Greek and Arabic.

The Summary

Looking solely at the Region 2 release and putting the slight issues with the transfer to one side, I can simply not recommend this DVD enough. It is a marvelous film, and while the DVD is not as feature packed as some titles, it does have some worthy extra features and is a nice package.

Comparing the R3 and R2 versions, it is obvious that the R2 version is the better option of the two. It all really comes down to your choice of a 3-minute pop video over a 20 minute making of feature. In my opinion there is no comparison, and so I would fully recommend the R2 over the R3 release.

An essential addition to any DVD collection.

Phil Gardner

Updated: Feb 27, 1999

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