After spending years in Hollywood with an output that was ever-decreasing in quality, many Hong Kong film fans had counted out John Woo for good. But, with the release of Red Cliff, John Woo showed to everybody that he still has what it takes to make a stunning movie. Or, rather, I should say movies, since the original release of Red Cliff spanned two parts, each released about a year apart, resulting in a story that runs nearly five hours. This is the sort of movie that is truly epic in every sense of the word.
But, of course, in this day and age of stuff like Twitter and short attention spans, the US release was pared down to about two and a half hours -- 148 minutes to be exact. Many would say that a cut or edited version of a movie isn't worth watching, and, in most cases, I would agree. But this new edit is actually done quite well. The movie does lose some of its' emotional impact due to the viewer not getting as much information about the characters, their backgrounds, and their motives. However, one still does get a great sense of the sweeping drama presented here, and the action scenes are still as powerful.
For purists about to pop a gasket that I'm endorsing an edited version of a movie, take heart (and save your angry e-mails), since Magnolia has also released Red Cliff in its' original length (which is called the "international version") on both DVD and Blu-Ray.
Magnet, Magnolia's genre label, presents Red Cliff on Blu-Ray (a standard-def version is also available) in 1080P in the original theatrical aspect of 2.35:1, and looks stunning, even during the phrentic action scenes. The soundtrack, which can be listened to in Mandarin (with some new English narration added) or an English dub, is delivered via a solid 5.1 DTS-HD mix that will have your speakers booming. Subtitles are available in English, captioned English, descriptive English, and Spanish, and are easy to read, with no noticeable grammatical errors. The menu system is fairly simple, but is nice to look at and easy enough to navigate around.
Extras on the Blu-Ray include:
Overall, Magnolia has put together a very solid Blu-Ray release here that would make a great addition to a lot of people's collections. With Red Cliff's huge booming action scenes, it's definitely a movie that's great for showing off your home theatre, and the fact that it's a damn good film to boot is just the icing on the cake.
- The Long Road (2 hrs. 25 min.): This is an extensive behind-the-scenes look at the making of the movie. It doesn't get as deep as something like Hearts of Darkness, but it is far beyond what usually consitiutes "real" behind-the-scenes footage on other DVDs and Blu-Rays. This segment is unfortunately only in standard-definitions, but is still well worth watching if you are interested in the film-making process
- A Conversation with John Woo (27 min.): An interview with talk show host Leo Quinones that looks further into the themes of heroism presnted in the film, and how accurate it was to actual events in Chinese history. Overall, I found this to be a pleasant and informative interview that fellow fans of John Woo should also enjoy.
- HDNet - A Look at Red Cliff (5 min.): A short promo piece used for the HDNET satellite TV network.
- Storyboards: 98 storyboards from the first part of the movie. They're a bit small, and there doesn't be any way to zoom in or otherwise change your view, but this is still an interesting extra if you'd like to know more about how the movie's massive action scenes were constructed.
- Trailers: Several other releases from Magnolia, including The Warlords, are featured, but there is no trailer for the movie itself.